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JANS 1994 


The New York 
Public Library 

Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations 


3 3333 07949 3272 

My First Summer in the Sierra 

Liberty Cap, with Vernal and Nevada Falls 

My First Summer 
in the Sierra 


John Muir 

^ M 

With Illustrations from Drawings 

made by the Author in 1869 

and from Photographs by 

Herbert W, Gleason 


191 1 


Published June 

/ : V. 7 i 7 - / / pKOFEKTY OF TK A> 



Sierra Club of California 
Faithful Defender of 
the People's Playgrounds 



Reproduced from photographs by Herbert W. Gleason, 
several of which were taken while in the company of the 
author, who is seen in the one facing page 2,16. 

WHITE MARIPOSA TULIP (Calochortus albus) . . .22 






ana) ............ 204 





From sketches made by the author in 1869. 




[ vii ] 


MOUNTAIN LIVE OAK (^uercus chrysolepis), EIGHT FEET IN 











RANGE 265 








My First Summer in the Sierra 

til i\f V08K 1T1HIC 

First Summer in 
the Sierra 


**bffiS> N the great Central Valley of 
California there are only two 
seasons, spring and summer. 
The spring begins with the 
first rainstorm, which usually falls in No- 
vember. In a few months the wonderful 
flowery vegetation is in full bloom, and by 
the end of May it is dead and dry and crisp, 
as if every plant had been roasted in an 

Then the lolling, panting flocks and herds 
are driven to the high, cool, green pastures 
of the Sierra. I was longing for the moun- 
tains about this time, but money was scarce 
and I could n't see how a bread supply was 

[ 3 ] 

My First Summer 

to be kept up. While I was anxiously brood- 
ing on the bread problem, so troublesome to 
wanderers, and trying to believe that I might 
learn to live like the wild animals, gleaning 
nourishment here and there from seeds, 
berries, etc., sauntering and climbing in 
joyful independence of money or baggage, 
Mr. Delaney, a sheep-owner, for whom I 
had worked a few weeks, called on me, and 
offered to engage me to go with his shep- 
herd and flock to the headwaters of the 

Merced and Tuolumne rivers, the verv re- 


gion I had most in mind. I was in the mood 
to accept work of any kind that would 
take me into the mountains whose treasures 
I had tasted last summer in the Yosemite 
region. The flock, he explained, would 
be moved gradually higher through the 
successive forest belts as the snow melted, 
stopping for a few weeks at the best places 
we came to. These I thought would be 
good centres of observation from which I 
might be able to make many telling excur- 

[4 ] 

In the Sierra 

sions within a radius of eight or ten miles 
of the camps to learn something of the 
plants, animals, and rocks ; for he assured 
me that I should be left perfectly free to 
follow my studies. I judged, however, that 
I was in no way the right man for the place, 
and freely explained my shortcomings, con- 
fessing that I was wholly unacquainted with 
the topography of the upper mountains, 
the streams that would have to be crossed, 
and the wild sheep-eating animals, etc. ; in 
short that, what with bears, coyotes, rivers, 
canons, and thorny, bewildering chaparral, I 
feared that half or more of his flock would 
be lost. Fortunately these shortcomings 
seemed insignificant to Mr. Delaney. The 
main thing, he said, was to have a man about 
the camp whom he could trust to see that 
the shepherd did his duty, and he assured me 
that the difficulties that seemed so formid- 
able at a distance would vanish as we went 
on; encouraging me further by saying that 
the shepherd would do all the herding, that 

[ 5 ] 

My First Summer 

I could study plants and rocks and scenery 
as much as I liked, and that he would him- 
self accompany us to the first main camp 
and make occasional visits to our higher 
ones to replenish our store of provisions 
and see how we prospered. Therefore I 
concluded to go, though still fearing, when 
I saw the silly sheep bouncing one by one 
through the narrow gate of the home cor- 
ral to be counted, that of the two thousand 
and fifty many would never return. 

I was fortunate in getting a fine St. Ber- 
nard dog for a companion. His master, a 
hunter with whom I was slightly acquaint- 
ed, came to me as soon as he heard that I 
was going to spend the summer in the Sierra 
and begged me to take his favorite dog, 
Carlo, with me, for he feared that if he 
were compelled to stay all summer on the 
plains the fierce heat might be the death of 
him. " I think I can trust you to be kind to 
him/ 3 he said, "and I am sure he will be 
good to you. He knows all about the moun- 


In the Sierra 

tain animals, will guard the camp, assist in 
managing the sheep, and in every way be 
found able and faithful/' Carlo knew we 
were talking about him, watched our faces, 
and listened so attentively that I fancied he 
understood us. Calling him by name, I asked 
him if he was willing to go with me. He 
looked me in the face with eyes expressing 
wonderful intelligence, then turned to his 
master, and after permission was given by 
a wave of the hand toward me and a fare- 
well patting caress, he quietly followed me 
as if he perfectly understood all that had 
been said and had known me always. 

June 3,1869.- -This morning provisions, 
camp-kettles, blankets,plant-press, etc., were 
packed on two horses, the flock headed for 
the tawny foothills, and away we sauntered 
in a cloud of dust: Mr. Delaney, bony and 
tall, with sharply hacked profile like Don 
Quixote, leading the pack-horses, Billy, the 
proud shepherd, a Chinaman and a Digger 


My First Summer 

Indian to assist in driving. for the first few 
days in the brushy foothills, and myself with 
notebook tied to my belt. 

The home ranch from which we set out 
is on the south side of the Tuolumne River 
near French Bar, where the foothills of 
metamorphic gold-bearing slates dip below 
the stratified deposits of the Central Valley. 
We had not gone more than a mile before 
some of the old leaders of the flock showed 
by the eager, inquiring way they ran and 
looked ahead that they were thinking of 
the high pastures they had enjoyed last sum- 
mer. Soon the whole flock seemed to be 
hopefully excited, the mothers calling their 
lambs, the lambs replying in tones wonder- 
fully human, their fondly quavering calls in- 
terrupted now and then by hastily snatched 
mouthfuls of withered grass. Amid all this 
seeming babel of baas as they streamed over 
the hills every mother and child recognized 
each other's voice. In case a tired lamb, 
half asleep in the smothering dust, should 


In the Sierra 

fail to answer, its mother would come run- 
ning back through the flock toward the 
spot whence its last response was heard, and 
refused to be comforted until she found it, 
the one of a thousand, though to our eyes 
and ears all seemed alike. 

The flock traveled at the rate of about a 
mile an hour, outspread in the form of an 
irregular triangle, about a hundred yards 
wide at the base, and a hundred and fifty 
yards long, with a crooked, ever-changing 
point made up of the strongest foragers, 
called the "leaders/' which, with the most 
active of those scattered along the ragged 
sides of the "main body," hastily explored 
nooks in the rocks and bushes for grass and 
leaves; the lambs and feeble old mothers 
dawdling in the rear were called the "tail 

About noon the heat was hard to bear ; 
the poor sheep panted pitifully and tried to 
stop in the shade of every tree they came to, 
while we gazed with eager longing through 


My First Summer 

the dim burning glare toward the snowy 
mountains and streams, though not one was 
in sight. The landscape is only wavering 
foothills roughened here and there with 
bushes and trees and out-cropping masses of 
slate. The trees, mostly the blue oak (jsjuercus 
Doug/asii\,are about thirty to forty feet high, 
with pale blue-green leaves and white bark, 
sparsely planted on the thinnest soil or in 
crevices of rocks beyond the reach of grass 
fires. The slates in many places rise abruptly 
through the tawny grass in sharp lichen- 
covered slabs like tombstones in deserted 
burying-grounds. With the exception of 
the oak and four or five species of manza- 
nita and ceanothus, the vegetation of the 
foothills is mostly the same as that of the 
plains. I saw this region in the early spring, 
when it was a charming landscape garden 
full of birds and bees and flowers. Now the 
scorching weather makes every thing dreary. 
The ground is full of cracks, lizards glide 
about on the rocks, and ants in amazing 

[ 10] 

In the Sierra 

numbers, whose tiny sparks of life only burn 
the brighter with the heat, fairly quiver 
with unquenchable energy as they run in 
long lines to fight and gather food. How it 
comes that they do not dry to a crisp in 
a few seconds' exposure to such sun-fire is 
marvelous. A few rattlesnakes lie coiled in 
out-of-the-way places, but are seldom seen. 
Magpies and crows, usually so noisy, are silent 
now, standing in mixed flocks on the ground 
beneath the best shade trees, with bills wide 
open and wings drooped, too breathless to 
speak; the quails also are trying to keep in 
the shade about the few tepid alkaline water- 
holes; cottontail rabbits are running from 
shade to shade among the ceanothus brush, 
and occasionally the long-eared hare is seen 
cantering gracefully across the wider open- 

After a short noon rest in a grove, the 
poor dust-choked flock was again driven 
ahead over the brushy hills, but the dim 
roadway we had been following faded away 

My First Summer 

just where it was most needed, compelling 
us to stop to look about us and get our 
bearings. The Chinaman seemed to think 
we were lost, and chattered in pidgin Eng- 
lish concerning the abundance of "litty 
stick" (chaparral), while the Indian silently 
scanned the billowy ridges and gulches for 
openings. Pushing through the thorny 
jungle, we at length discovered a road trend- 
ing toward Coulterville, which we followed 
until an hour before sunset, when we reached 
a dry ranch and camped for the night. 

Camping in the foothills with a flock 
of sheep is simple and easy, but far from 
pleasant. The sheep were allowed to pick 
what they could find in the neighborhood 
until after sunset, watched by the shepherd, 
while the others gathered wood, made a 
fire, cooked, unpacked and fed the horses, 
etc. About dusk the weary sheep were 
gathered on the highest open spot near 
camp, where they willingly bunched close 
together, and after each mother had found 

[ 12 ] 

In the Sierra 

her lamb and suckled it, all lay down and 
required no attention until morning. 

Supper was announced by the call, 
" Grub ! ' Each with a tin plate helped him- 
self direct from the pots and pans while 
chatting about such camp studies as sheep- 
feed, mines, coyotes, bears, or adventures 
during the memorable gold days of pay- 
dirt. The Indian kept in the background, 
saying never a word, as if he belonged to 
another species. The meal finished, the 
dogs were fed, the smokers smoked by the 
fire, and under the influences of fullness and 
tobacco the calm that settled on their faces 
seemed almost divine, something like the 
mellow meditative glow portrayed on the 
countenances of saints. Then suddenly, as 
if awakening from a dream, each with a 
sigh or a grunt knocked the ashes out of 
his pipe, yawned, gazed at the fire a few 
moments, said, "Well, I believe I'll turn 
in," and straightway vanished beneath his 
blankets. The fire smouldered and flickered 

My First Summer 

an hour or two longer; the stars shone 
brighter ; coons, coyotes, and owls stirred 
the silence here and there, while crickets 
and hylas made a cheerful, continuous mu- 
sic, so fitting and full that it seemed a part 
of the very body of the night. The only dis- 
cordance came from a snoring sleeper, and 
the coughing sheep with dust in their 
throats. In the starlight the flock looked 
like a big gray blanket. 

June 4. - The camp was astir at day- 
break ; coffee, bacon, and beans formed the 
breakfast, followed by quick dish-washing 
and packing. A general bleating began about 
sunrise. As soon as a mother ewe arose, her 
lamb came bounding and bunting for its 
breakfast, and after the thousand youngsters 
had been suckled the flock began to nibble 
and spread. The restless wethers with raven- 
ous appetites were the first to move, but dared 
not go far from the main body. Billy and 
the Indian and the Chinaman kept them 
headed along the weary road, and allowed 

[ 14 ] 

In the Sierra 


them to pick up what little they could find 
on a breadth of about a quarter of a mile. 
But as several flocks had already gone ahead 
of us, scarce a leaf, green or dry, was left ; 
therefore the starving flock had to be hur- 
ried on over the bare, hot hills to the nearest 
of the green pastures, about twenty or thirty 
miles from here. 

The pack-animals were led by Don Quix- 
ote, a heavy rifle over his shoulder intended 
for bears and wolves. This day has been as 
hot and dusty as the first, leading over gently 
sloping brown hills, with mostly the same 
vegetation, excepting the strange-looking 
Sabine pine (Pinus Sabiniana), which here 
forms small groves or is scattered among the 
blue oaks. The trunk divides at a height of fif- 
teen or twenty feet into two or more stems, 
outleaning or nearly upright, with many 
straggling branches and long gray needles, 
casting but little shade. In general appearance 
this tree looks more like a palm than a pine. 
The cones are about six or seven inches long, 

[ 15 1 

My First Summer 

about five in diameter, very heavy, and last 
long after they fall, so that the ground be- 
neath the trees is covered with them. They 
make fine resiny, light-giving camp-fires, 
next to ears of Indian corn the most beau- 
tiful fuel I 've ever seen. The nuts, the Don 
tells me, are gathered in large quantities 
by the Digger Indians for food. They are 
about as large and hard-shelled as hazel- 
nuts, food and fire fit for the gods from 
the same fruit. 

"June 5 . This morning a few hours after 
setting out with the crawling sheep-cloud, 
we gained the summit of the first well-defined 
bench on the mountain-flank at Pino Blanco. 
The Sabine pines interest me greatly. They 
are so airy and strangely palm-like I was 
eager to sketch them, and was in a fever of 
excitement without accomplishing much. 
I managed to halt long enough, however, to 
make a tolerably fair sketch of Pino Blanco 
peak from the southwest side, where there 
is a small field and vineyard irrigated by a 

[ 16] 

In the Sierra 

stream that makes a pretty fall on its way 
down a gorge by the roadside. 

After gaining the open summit of this first 
bench, feeling the natural exhilaration due 
to the slight elevation of a thousand feet or 
so, and the hopes excited concerning the out- 

/'- \l'< 'ft 


look to be obtained, a magnificent section 
of the Merced Valley at what is called Horse- 
shoe Bend came full in sight, a glorious 
wilderness that seemed to be calling with a 
thousand songful voices. Bold, down-sweep- 
ing slopes, feathered with pines and clumps 
of manzanita with sunny, open spaces be- 

My First Summer 

tween them, make up most of the foreground; 
the middle and background present fold 
beyond fold of finely modeled hills and 
ridges rising into mountain-like masses in 
the distance, all covered with a shaggy growth 
of chaparral, mostly adenostoma, planted so 
marvelously close and even that it looks 
like soft, rich plush without a single tree or 
bare spot. As far as the eye can reach it 
extends, a heaving, swelling sea of green as 
regular and continuous as that produced by 
the heaths of Scotland. The sculpture of the 
landscape is as striking in its main lines as 
in its lavish richness of detail; a grand con- 
gregation of massive heights with the river 
shining between, each carved into smooth, 
graceful folds without leaving a single rocky 
angle exposed, as if the delicate fluting and 
ridging fashioned out of metamorphic slates 
had been carefully sandpapered. The whole 
landscape showed design, like man's noblest 
sculptures. How wonderful the power of its 
beauty! Gazing awe-stricken, I might have left 

[ 18 ] 

In the Sierra 

everything for it. Glad, endless work would 
then be mine tracing the forces that have 
brought forth its features, its rocks and plants 
and animals and glorious weather. Beauty 
beyond thought everywhere, beneath, above, 
made and being made forever. I gazed and 
gazed and longed and admired until the dusty 
sheep and packs were far out of sight, made 
hurried notes and a sketch, though there was 
no need of either, for the colors and lines 
and expression of this divine landscape-coun- 
tenance are so burned into mind and heart 
they surely can never grow dim. 

The evening of this charmed day is cool, 
calm, cloudless, and full of a kind of light- 
ning I have never seen before white glow- 
ing cloud-shaped masses down among the 
trees and bushes, like quick-throbbing fire- 
flies in the Wisconsin meadows rather than 
the so-called " wild fire." The spreading hairs 
of the horses' tails and sparks from our blan- 
kets show how highly charged the air is. 

June 6. We are now on what may be 


My First Summer 

called the second bench or plateau of the 
Range, after making many small ups and 
downs over belts of hill-waves, with, of course, 
corresponding changes in the vegetation. In 
open spots many of the lowland composite 
are still to be found, and some of the Mariposa 
tulips and other conspicuous members of the 
lily family; but the characteristic blue oak 
of the foothills is left below, and its place is 
taken by a fine large species (Quercus Call- 
fornica) with deeply lobed deciduous leaves, 
picturesquely divided trunk, and broad, massy, 
finely lobed and modeled head. Here also at 
a height of about twenty-five hundred feet 
we come to the edge of the great coniferous 
forest, made up mostly of yellow pine with 
just a few sugar pines. We are now in the 
mountains and they are in us, kindling en- 
thusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling 
every pore and cell of us. Our flesh-and-bone 
tabernacle seems transparent as glass to the 
beauty about us, as if truly an inseparable part 
of it, thrilling with the air and trees, streams 


In the Sierra 

and rocks, in the waves of the sun, - -a part 
of all nature, neither old nor young, sick nor 
well, but immortal. Just now I can hardly 
conceive of any bodily condition dependent 
on food or breath any more than the ground 

n a 


or the sky. How glorious a conversion, so 
complete and wholesome it is, scarce mem- 
ory enough of old bondage days left as a 
standpoint to view it from ! In this newness 
of life we seem to have been so always. 

[ 21 ] 

My First Summer 

Through a meadow opening in the pine 
woods I see snowy peaks about the head- 
waters of the Merced above Yosemite. How 
near they seem and how clear their outlines 
on the blue air, or rather in the blue air; for 
they seem to be saturated with it. How con- 
suming strong the invitation they extend! 
Shall I be allowed to go to them ? Night and 
day I '11 pray that I may, but it seems too 
good to be true. Some one worthy will go, 
able for the Godful work, yet as far as I 
can I must drift about these love-monument 
mountains, glad to be a servant of servants 
in so holy a wilderness. 

Found a lovely lily (Calochortus albus} in 
a shady adenostoma thicket near Coulter- 
ville, in company with Adlantum Cbilense. 
It is white with a faint purplish tinge in- 
side at the base of the petals, a most im- 
pressive plant, pure as a snow crystal, one of 
the plant saints that all must love and be 
made so much the purer by it every time 
it is seen. It puts the roughest mountaineer 

[ 22 ] 

White Mariposa Tulip (Calorchortus albus) 

In the Sierra 

on his good behavior. With this plant the 
whole world would seem rich though none 
other existed. It is not easy to keep on with 
the camp cloud while such plant people are 
standing preaching by the wayside. 

During the afternoon we passed a fine 
meadow bounded by stately pines, mostly the 
arrowy yellow pine, with here and there a 
noble sugar pine, its feathery arms outspread 
above the spires of its companion species in 
marked contrast ; a glorious tree, its cones 
fifteen to twenty inches long, swinging like 
tassels at the ends of the branches with su- 
perb ornamental effect. Saw some logs of 
this species at the Greeley Mill. They are 
round and regular as if turned in a lathe, 
excepting the butt cuts, which have a few 
buttressing projections. The fragrance of 
the sugary sap is delicious and scents the 
mill and lumber yard. How beautiful the 
ground beneath this pine thickly strewn with 
slender needles and grand cones, and the 
piles of cone-scales, seed-wings and shells 

[ 23 ] 

My First Summer 

around the instep of each tree where the 
squirrels have been feasting ! They get the 
seeds by cutting off the scales at the base in 
regular order, following their spiral arrange- 
ment, and the two seeds at the base of each 
scale, a hundred or two in a cone, must 
make a good meal. The yellow pine cones 
and those of most other species and genera 
are held upside down on the ground by the 
Douglas squirrel, and turned around gradu- 
ally until stripped, while he sits usually 
with his back to a tree, probably for safety. 
Strange to say, he never seems to get him- 
self smeared with gum, not even his paws 
or whiskers, and how cleanly and beauti- 
ful in color the cone-litter kitchen-middens 
he makes. 

We are now approaching the region of 
clouds and cool streams. Magnificent white 
cumuli appeared about noon above the Yo- 
semite region, floating fountains refresh- 
ing the glorious wilderness, sky moun- 
tains in whose pearly hills and dales the 


In the Sierra 

streams take their rise, blessing with cool- 
ing shadows and rain. No rock landscape 
is more varied in sculpture, none more 
delicately modeled than these landscapes of 
the sky ; domes and peaks rising, swelling, 
white as finest marble and firmly outlined, 
a most impressive manifestation of world 
building. Every rain-cloud, however fleet- 
ing, leaves its mark, not only on trees and 
flowers whose pulses are quickened, and on 
the replenished streams and lakes, but also 
on the rocks are its marks engraved whether 
we can see them or not. 

I have been examining the curious and 
influential shrub Adenostoma fasciculata, first 
noticed about Horseshoe Bend. It is very 
abundant on the lower slopes of the second 
plateau near Coulterville, forming a dense, 
almost impenetrable growth that looks dark 
in the distance. It belongs to the rose fam- 
ily, is about six or eight feet high, has small 
white flowers in racemes eight to twelve 
inches long, round needle-like leaves, and 

[25 ] 

My First Summer 

reddish bark that becomes shreddy when old. 
It grows on sun-beaten slopes, and like grass 
is often swept away by running fires, but is 
quickly renewed from the roots. Any trees 
that may have established themselves in its 
midst are at length killed by these fires, and 
this no doubt is the secret of the unbroken 
character of its broad belts. A few man- 
zanitas, which also rise again from the root 
after consuming fires, make out to dwell 
with it, also a few bush composite, 
baccharis and linosyris, and some liliaceous 
plants, mostly calochortus and brodiaea, with 
deepset bulbs safe from fire. A multitude of 
birds and " wee, sleekit, cow'rin', tim'rous 
beasties' find good homes in its deepest 
thickets, and the open bays and lanes that 
fringe the margins of its main belts offer 
shelter and food to the deer when winter 
storms drive them down from their high 
mountain pastures. A most admirable plant ! 
It is now in bloom, and I like to wear its 
pretty fragrant racemes in my buttonhole. 

[ 26] 

In the Sierra 

Azalea occidentalis, another charming 
shrub, grows beside cool streams hereabouts 
and much higher in the Yosemite region. 
We found it this evening in bloom a few 
miles above Greeley's Mill, where we are 
camped for the night. It is closely related 
to the rhododendrons, is very showy and fra- 
grant, and everybody must like it not only 
for itself but for the shady alders and wil- 
lows, ferny meadows, and living water asso- 
ciated with it. 

Another conifer was met to-day, in- 
cense cedar (Libocedrus decurrens} 9 a large 
tree with warm yellow-green foliage in flat 
plumes like those of arborvitas, bark cinna- 
mon-colored, and as the boles of the old 
trees are without limbs they make striking 
pillars in the woods where the sun chances 
to shine on them, a worthy companion 
of the kingly sugar and yellow pines. I feel 
strangely attracted to this tree. The brown 
close-grained wood, as well as the small 
scale-like leaves, is fragrant, and the flat over- 

[ 27 ] 

My First Summer 

lapping plumes make fine beds, and must 
shed the rain well. It would be delightful 
to be storm-bound beneath one of these 
noble, hospitable, inviting old trees, its broad 
sheltering arms bent down like a tent, in- 
cense rising from the fire made from its dry 
fallen branches, and a hearty wind chanting 
overhead. But the weather is calm to-night, 
and our camp is only a sheep camp. We are 
near the North Fork of the Merced. The 
night wind is telling the wonders of the 
upper mountains, their snow fountains and 
gardens, forests and groves; even their to- 
pography is in its tones. And the stars, the 
everlasting sky lilies, how bright they are 
now that we have climbed above the low- 
land dust ! The horizon is bounded and 
adorned by a spiry wall of pines, every tree 
harmoniously related to every other; defi- 
nite symbols, divine hieroglyphics written 
with sunbeams. Would I could understand 
them ! The stream flowing past the camp 
through ferns and lilies and alders makes 

[ 28 ] 

In the Sierra 

sweet music to the ear, but the pines mar- 
shaled around the edge of the sky make a 
yet sweeter music to the eye. Divine beauty 
all. Here I could stay tethered forever with 
just bread and water, nor would I be lonely ; 
loved friends and neighbors, as love for every- 
thing increased, would seem all the nearer 
however many the miles and mountains 
between us. 

"June 7. The sheep were sick last night, 
and many of them are still far from well, 
hardly able to leave camp, coughing, groan- 
ing, looking wretched and pitiful, all from 
eating the leaves of the blessed azalea. So 
at least say the shepherd and the Don. 
Having had but little grass since they left 
the plains, they are starving, and so eat any- 
thing green they can get. "Sheepmen" call 
azalea " sheep-poison," and wonder what 
the Creator was thinking about when he 
made it, so desperately does sheep busi- 
ness blind and degrade, though supposed to 
have a refining influence in the good old 

[ 29] 

My First Summer 

days we read of. The California sheep- 
owner is in haste to get rich, and often does, 
now that pasturage costs nothing, while the 
climate is so favorable that no winter food 
supply, shelter-pens, or barns are required. 
Therefore large flocks may be kept at slight 
expense, and large profits realized, the money 
invested doubling, it is claimed, every other 
year. This quickly acquired wealth usually 
creates desire for more. Then indeed the 
wool is drawn close down over the poor 
fellow's eyes, dimming or shutting out al- 
most everything worth seeing. 

As for the shepherd, his case is still worse, 
especially in winter when he lives alone in 
a cabin. For, though stimulated at times by 
hopes of one day owning a flock and getting 
rich like his boss, he at the same time is 
likely to be degraded by the life he leads, and 
seldom reaches the dignity or advantage 
or disadvantage of ownership. The degra- 
dation in his case has for cause one not far 
to seek. He is solitary most of the year, and 

[ 30 ] 

In the Sierra 

solitude to most people seems hard to bear. 
He seldom has much good mental work or 
recreation in the way of books. Coming 
into his dingy hovel-cabin at night, stupidly 
weary, he finds nothing to balance and level 
his life with the universe. No, after his dull 
drag all day after the sheep, he must get his 
supper; he is likely to slight this task and 
try to satisfy his hunger with whatever 
comes handy. Perhaps no bread is baked; 
then he just makes a few grimy flapjacks in 
his unwashed frying-pan, boils a handful of 
tea, and perhaps fries a few strips of rusty 
bacon. Usually there are dried peaches or 
apples in the cabin, but he hates to be both- 
ered with the cooking of them, just swal- 
lows the bacon and flapjacks, and depends 
on the genial stupefaction of tobacco for the 
rest. Then to bed, often without removing 
the clothing worn during the day. Of course 
his health suffers, reacting on his mind ; and 
seeing nobody for weeks or months, he 
finally becomes semi-insane or wholly so. 

My First Summer 

The shepherd in Scotland seldom thinks 
of being anything but a shepherd. He has 
probably descended from a race of shep- 
herds and inherited a love and aptitude for 
the business almost as marked as that of his 
collie. He has but a small flock to look 
after, sees his family and neighbors, has 
time for reading in fine weather, and often 
carries books to the fields with which he 
may converse with kings. The oriental 
shepherd, we read, called his sheep by 
name; they knew his voice and followed 
him. The flocks must have been small and 
easily managed, allowing piping on the 
hills and ample leisure for reading and 
thinking. But whatever the blessings of 
sheep-culture in other times and countries, 
the California shepherd, as far as I 've seen 
or heard, is never quite sane for any con- 
siderable time. Of all Nature's voices baa 
is about all he hears. Even the howls and 
ki-yis of coyotes might be blessings if well 
heard, but he hears them only through a 

[ 32 ] 

In the Sierra 

blur of mutton and wool, and they do him 
no good. 

The sick sheep are getting well, and the 
shepherd is discoursing on the various poi- 
sons lurking in these high pastures - - azalea, 
kalmia, alkali. After crossing the North 
Fork of the Merced we turned to the left 
toward Pilot Peak, and made a considerable 
ascent on a rocky, brush-covered ridge to 
Brown's Flat, where for the first time since 
leaving the plains the flock is enjoying plenty 
of green grass. Mr. Delaney intends to seek 
a permanent camp somewhere in the neigh- 
borhood, to last several weeks. 

Before noon we passed Bower Cave, a 
delightful marble palace, not dark and drip- 
ping, but filled with sunshine, which pours 
into it through its wide-open mouth facing 
the south. It has a fine, deep, clear little lake 
with mossy banks embowered with broad- 
leaved maples, all under ground, wholly 
unlike anything I have seen in the cave 
line even in Kentucky, where a large part 

[ 33 ] 

My First Summer 

of the state is honeycombed with caves. 
This curious specimen of subterranean scen- 
ery is located on a belt of marble that is 
said to extend from the north end of the 
Range to the extreme south. Many other 
caves occur on the belt, but none like this, 
as far as I have learned, combining as it does 
sunny outdoor brightness and vegetation with 
the crystalline beauty of the under-world. 
It is claimed by a Frenchman, who has 
fenced and locked it, placed a boat on the 
lakelet and seats on the mossy bank under 
the maple trees, and charges a dollar admis- 
sion fee. Being on one of the ways to the 
Yosemite Valley, a good many tourists visit 
it during the travel months of summer, re- 
garding it as an interesting addition to their 
Yosemite wonders. 

Poison oak or poison ivy ( Rbus diversiloba), 
both as a bush and a scrambler up trees and 
rocks, is common throughout the foothill re- 
gion up to a height of at least three thousand 
feet above the sea. It is somewhat trouble- 

[ 34] 

In the Sierra 

some to most travelers, inflaming the skin 
and eyes, but blends harmoniously with its 
companion plants, and many a charming 
flower leans confidingly upon it for protec- 
tion and shade. I have oftentimes found the 
curious twining lily (Stropholirion Californi- 
cum} climbing its branches, showing no fear 
but rather congenial companionship. Sheep 
eat it without apparent ill effects ; so do 
horses to some extent, though not fond of 
it, and to many persons it is harmless. Like 
most other things not apparently useful to 
man, it has few friends, and the blind ques- 
tion, "Why was it made?' goes on and on 
with never a guess that first of all it might 
have been made for itself. 

Brown's Flat is a shallow fertile valley on 
the top of the divide between the North Fork 
of the Merced and Bull Creek, commanding 
magnificent views in every direction. Here 
the adventurous pioneer David Brown made 
his headquarters for many years, dividing his 
time between gold-hunting and bear-hunt- 

[ 35 ] 

My First Summer 

ing. Where could lonely hunter find a better 
solitude ? Game in the woods, gold in the 
rocks, health and exhilaration in the air, 
while the colors and cloud furniture of the 
sky are ever inspiring through all sorts of 
weather. Though sternly practical, like most 
pioneers, old David seems to have been un- 
commonly fond of scenery. Mr. Delaney, 
who knew him well, tells me that he dearly 
loved to climb to the summit of a command- 
ing ridge to gaze abroad over the forest to the 
snow-clad peaks and sources of the rivers, and 
over the foreground valleys and gulches to 
note where miners were at work or claims 
were abandoned, judging by smoke from 
cabins and camp-fires, the sounds of axes, 
etc. ; and when a rifle-shot was heard, to guess 
who was the hunter, whether Indian or some 
poacher on his wide domain. His dog Sandy 
accompanied him everywhere, and well the 
little hairy mountaineer knew and loved his 
master and his master's aims. In deer-hunt- 
ing he had but little to do, trotting behind 


In the Sierra 

his master as he slowly made his way through 
the wood, careful not to step heavily on dry 
twigs, scanning open spots in the chaparral, 
where the game loves to feed in the early 
morning and towards sunset ; peering cau- 
tiously over ridges as new outlooks were 
reached, and along the meadowy borders of 
streams. But when bears were hunted, little 
Sandy became more important, and it was as 
a bear-hunter that Brown became famous. 
His hunting method, as described by Mr. 
Delaney, who had passed many a night with 
him in his lonely cabin and learned his 
stories, was simply to go slowly and silently 
through the best bear pastures, with his dog 
and rifle and a few pounds of flour, until he 
found a fresh track and then follow it to the 
death, paying no heed to the time required. 
Wherever the bear went he followed, led by 
little Sandy, who had a keen nose and never 
lost the track, however rocky the ground. 
When high open points were reached, the 
likeliest places were carefully scanned. The 

[ 37] 

My First Summer 

time of year enabled the hunter to determine 
approximately where the bear would be 
found, in the spring and early summer on 
open spots about the banks of streams and 
springy places eating grass and clover and 
lupines, or in dry meadows feasting on straw- 
berries ; toward the end of summer, on dry 
ridges, feasting on manzanita berries, sitting 
on his haunches, pulling down the laden 
branches with his paws, and pressing them 
together so as to get good compact mouth- 
fuls however much mixed with twigs and 
leaves; in the Indian summer, beneath the 
pines, chewing the cones cut off by the squir- 
rels, or occasionally climbing a tree to gnaw 
and break off the fruitful branches. In late 
autumn, when acorns are ripe, Bruin's favor- 
ite feeding-grounds are groves of the Cali- 
fornia oak in park-like canon flats. Always 
the cunning hunter knew where to look, and 
seldom came upon Bruin unawares. When 
the hot scent showed the dangerous game 
was nigh, a long halt was made, and the in- 

[ 38 ] 

In the Sierra 

tricacies of the topography and vegetation 
leisurely scanned to catch a glimpse of the 
shaggy wanderer, or to at least determine 
where he was most likely to be. 

"Whenever/" said the hunter, "I saw a 
bear before it saw me I had no trouble in 
killing it. I just studied the lay of the land 
and got to leeward of it no matter how far 
around I had to go, and then worked up to 
within a few hundred yards or so, at the foot 
of a tree that I could easily climb, but too 
small for the bear to climb. Then I looked 
well to the condition of my rifle, took off 
my boots so as to climb well if necessary, 
and waited until the bear turned its side in 
clear view when I could make a sure or at 
least a good shot. In case it showed fight I 
climbed out of reach. But bears are slow 
and awkward with their eyes, and being to 
leeward of them they could not scent me, 
and I often got in a second shot before they 
noticed the smoke. Usually, however, they 
run when wounded and hide in the brush. 


My First Summer 


I let them run a good safe time before I 
ventured to follow them, and Sandy was 
pretty sure tofind them dead. If not,he barked 
and drew their attention, and occasionally 
rushed in for a distracting bite, so that I 
was able to get to a safe distance for a final 
shot. Oh yes, bear-hunting is safe enough 
when followed in a safe way, though like 
every other business it has its accidents, and 
little doggie and I have had some close 
calls. Bears like to keep out of the way of 
men as a general thing, but if an old, lean, 
hungry mother with cubs met a man on her 
own ground she would, in my opinion, try 
to catch and eat him. This would be only 
fair play anyhow, for we eat them, but no- 
body hereabout has been used for bear grub 
that I know of." 

Brown had left his mountain home ere 
we arrived, but a considerable number of 
Digger Indians still linger in their cedar- 
bark huts on the edge of the flat. They were 
attracted in the first place by the white 


In the Sierra 

hunter whom they had learned to respect, 
and to whom they looked for guidance and 
protection against their enemies the Pah 
Utes, who sometimes made raids across from 
the east side of the Range to plunder the 
stores of the comparatively feeble Diggers 
and steal their wives. 


|, fe \, 



, i 


f-'- - &- ' .' 


8. The sheep, now grassy and 
good natured, slowly nibbled their way 
down into the valley of the North Fork of 
the Merced at the foot of Pilot Peak Ridge 
to the place selected by the Don for our 
first central camp, a picturesque hopper- 

My First Summer 

shaped hollow formed by converging hill- 
slopes at a bend of the river. Here racks 
for dishes and provisions were made in the 
shade of the river-bank trees, and beds of 
fern fronds, cedar plumes, and various flowers, 
each to the taste of its owner, and a corral 
back on the open flat for the wool. 

yune 9. How deep our sleep last night 
in the mountain's heart, beneath the trees 
and stars, hushed by solemn-sounding water- 
falls and many small soothing voices in 
sweet accord whispering peace! And our 
first pure mountain day, warm, calm, cloud- 
less, how immeasurable it seems, how 
serenely wild ! I can scarcely remember its 
beginning. Along the river, over the hills, 
in the ground, in the sky, spring work is 
going on with joyful enthusiasm, new life, 
new beauty, unfolding, unrolling in glori- 
ous exuberant extravagance, new birds in 
their nests, new winged creatures in the 
air, and new leaves, new flowers, spreading, 
shining, rejoicing everywhere. 


In the Sierra 

The trees about the camp stand close, giv- 
ing ample shade for ferns and lilies, while 
back from the bank most of the sunshine 
reaches the ground, calling up the grasses 
and flowers in glorious array, tall bromus 
waving like bamboos, starry composite, 
monardella, Mariposa tulips, lupines, gilias, 
violets, glad children of light. Soon every 
fern frond will be unrolled, great beds of 
common pteris and woodwardia along the 
river, wreaths and rosettes of pellasa and 
cheilanthes on sunny rocks. Some of the 
woodwardia fronds are already six feet 

A handsome little shrub, Chamcebatia fo- 
liolosa, belonging to the rose family, spreads 
a yellow-green mantle beneath the sugar 
pines for miles without a break, not mixed 
or roughened with other plants. Only here 
and there a Washington lily may be seen 
nodding above its even surface, or a bunch 
or two of tall bromus as if for ornament. 
This fine carpet shrub begins to appear at, 

[43 ] 

My First Summer 

say, twenty-five hundred or three thousand 
feet above sea level, is about knee high or 
less, has brown branches, and the largest 
stems are only about half an inch in dia- 
meter. The leaves, light yellow green, 
thrice pinnate and finely cut, give them a 
rich ferny appearance, and they are dotted 
with minute glands that secrete wax with 
a peculiar pleasant odor that blends finely 
with the spicy fragrance of the pines. The 
flowers are white, five eighths of an inch 
in diameter, and look like those of the 
strawberry. Am delighted with this little 
bush. It is the only true carpet shrub of 
this part of the Sierra. The manzanita, 
rhamnus, and most of the species of ceano- 
thus make shaggy rugs and border fringes 
rather than carpets or mantles. 

The sheep do not take kindly to their 
new pastures, perhaps from being too closely 
hemmed in by the hills. They are never 
fully at rest. Last night they were fright- 
ened, probably by bears or coyotes prowling 

[ 44 ] 

In the Sierra 

and planning for a share of the grand mass 
of mutton. 

June 10. Very warm. We get water 
for the camp from a rock basin at the foot 
of a picturesque cascading reach of the river 
where it is well stirred and made lively 
without being beaten into dusty foam. The 
rock here is black metamorphic slate, worn 
into smooth knobs in the stream channels, 
contrasting with the fine gray and white 
cascading water as it glides and glances and 
falls in lace-like sheets and braided over- 
folding' currents. Tufts of sedge growing 
on the rock knobs that rise above the sur- 
face produce a charming effect, the long 
elastic leaves arching over in every direc- 
tion, the tips of the longest drooping into 
the current, which dividing against the pro- 
jecting rocks makes still finer lines, uniting 
with the sedges to see how beautiful the 
happy stream can be made. Nor is this all, 
for the giant saxifrage also is growing on 
some of the knob rock islets, firmly an- 

[45 ] 

My First Summer 

chored and displaying their broad round 
umbrella-like leaves in showy groups by 
themselves, or above the sedge tufts. The 
flowers of this species (Saxifraga peltata) 
are purple, and form tall glandular racemes 
that are in bloom before the appearance of 
the leaves. The fleshy root-stocks grip the 
rock in cracks and hollows, and thus enable 
the plant to hold on against occasional 
floods,- -a marked species employed by Na- 
ture to make yet more beautiful the most 
interesting portions of these cool clear 
streams. Near camp the trees arch over 
from bank to bank, making a leafy tunnel 
full of soft subdued light, through which 
the young river sings and shines like a happy 
living creature. 

Heard a few peals of thunder from the 
upper Sierra, and saw firm white bossy cu- 
muli rising back of the pines. This was 
about noon. 

June ii. On one of the eastern branches 
of the river discovered some charming cas- 


A Forest Brook 



In the Sierra 

cades with a pool at the foot of each of them. 
White dashing water, a few bushes and tufts 
of carex on ledges leaning over with fine 
effect, and large orange lilies assembled in 
superb groups on fertile soil-beds beside the 

There are no large meadows or grassy 
plains near camp to supply lasting pasture for 
our thousands of busy nibblers. The main 
dependence is ceanothus brush on the hills 
and tufted grass patches here and there, with 
lupines and pea-vines among the flowers on 
sunny open spaces. Large areas have already 
been stripped bare, or nearly so, compelling 
the poor hungry wool bundles to scatter far 
and wide, keeping the shepherds and dogs 
at the top of their speed to hold them within 
bounds. Mr. Delaney has gone back to the 
plains, taking the Indian and Chinaman with 
him, leaving instruction to keep the flock 
here or hereabouts until his return, which 
he promised would not be long delayed. 

How fine the weather is ! Nothing more 

[47 ] 

My First Summer 

celestial can I conceive. How gently the 
winds blow! Scarce can these tranquil air- 
currents be called winds. They seem the very 
breath of Nature, whispering peace to every 
living thing. Down in the camp dell there 
is no swaying of tree-tops ; most of the time 
not a leaf moves. I don't remember having 
seen a single lily swinging on its stalk, though 
they are so tall the least breeze would rock 
them. What grand bells these lilies have! 
Some of them big enough for children's bon- 
nets. I have been sketching them, and would 
fain draw every leaf of their wide shining 
whorls and every curved and spotted petal. 
More beautiful, better kept gardens cannot 
be imagined. The species is Lilium parda- 
linum, five to six feet high, leaf-whorls a foot 
wide, flowers about six inches wide, bright 
orange, purple spotted in the throat, seg- 
ments revolute a majestic plant. 

yune 12. A slight sprinkle of rain,- 
large drops far apart, falling with hearty pat 
and plash on leaves and stones and into the 

[ 48 ] 

In the Sierra 

mouths of the flowers. Cumuli rising to the 
eastward. How beautiful their pearly bosses ! 
How well they harmonize with the upswell- 
ing rocks beneath them. Mountains of the 
sky, solid-looking, finely sculptured, their 
richly varied topography wonderfully de- 
fined. Never before have I seen clouds so 
substantial looking in form and texture. 
Nearly every day toward noon they rise with 
visible swelling motion as if new worlds 
were being created. And how fondly they 
brood and hover over the gardens and for- 
ests with their cooling shadows and show- 
ers, keeping every petal and leaf in glad 
health and heart. One may fancy the clouds 
themselves are plants, springing up in the 
sky-fields at the call of the sun, growing in 
beauty until they reach their prime, scat- 
tering rain and hail like berries and seeds, 
then wilting and dying. 

The mountain live oak, common here and 
a thousand feet or so higher, is like the live oak 
of Florida, not only in general appearance, 


My First Summer 

foliage, bark, and wide -branching habit, 
but in its tough, knotty, unwedgeable wood. 
Standing alone with plenty of elbow room, 
the largest trees are about seven to eight feet 
in diameter near the ground, sixty feet high, 

, ' '<*fe**" 

.. . *" 

8t!Jw - . "i? . v. 

1 *' ! 

'V **>- ..v 

, **. 


r \ - PX . 

' v ,' " 

x ' .. * <~ 

yfcft; iff&'jfy 

MOUNTAIN LIVE OAK (Quercus cArysolepis) , EIGHT FEET IN 


and as wide or wider across the head. The 
leaves are small and undivided, mostly with- 
out teeth or wavy edging, though on young 
shoots some are sharply serrated, both kinds 
being found on the same tree. The cups of 

[ 50 ] 

In the Sierra 

the medium-sized acorns are shallow, thick 
walled, and covered with a golden dust of 
minute hairs. Some of the trees have hardly 
any main trunk, dividing near the ground 
into large wide-spreading limbs, and these, 
dividing again and again, terminate in long, 
drooping, cord-like branchlets, many of 
which reach nearly to the ground, while a 
dense canopy of short, shining leafy branch- 
lets forms a round head which looks some- 
thing like a cumulus cloud when the sun- 
shine is pouring over it. 

A marked plant is the bush poppy (Den- 
drome con rigidum), found on the hot hillsides 
near camp, the only woody member of the 
order I have yet met in all my walks. Its 
flowers are bright orange yellow, an inch to 
two inches wide, fruit-pods three or four 
inches long, slender and curving, height 
of bushes about four feet, made up of many 
slim, straight branches, radiating from the 
root, a companion of the manzanita and 
other sun-loving chaparral shrubs. 

My First Summer 

"June 13.- -Another glorious Sierra day 
in which one seems to be dissolved and ab- 
sorbed and sent pulsing onward we know not 
where. Life seems neither long nor short, 
and we take no more heed to save time or 
make haste than do the trees and stars. This 
is true freedom, a good practical sort of im- 
mortality. Yonder rises another white sky- 
land. How sharply the yellow pine spires 
and the palm-like crowns of the sugar pines 
are outlined on its smooth white domes. And 
hark! the grand thunder billows booming, 
rolling from ridge to ridge, followed by the 
faithful shower. 

A good many herbaceous plants come thus 
far up the mountains from the plains, and are 
now in flower, two months later than their 
lowland relatives. Saw a few columbines to- 
day. Most of the ferns are in their prime, - 
rock ferns on the sunny hillsides, cheilanthes, 
pellaea, gymnogramme; woodwardia, aspi- 
dium, woodsia along the stream banks, and 
the common Pteris aquilina on sandy flats, 

[ 52 ] 

In the Sierra 

This last, however common, is here making 
shows of strong, exuberant, abounding beauty 
to set the botanist wild with admiration. I 
measured some scarce full grown that are 
more than seven feet high. Though the 
commonest and most widely distributed of 
all the ferns, I might almost say that I never 
saw it before. The broad-shouldered fronds 
held high on smooth stout stalks growing 
close together, overleaning and overlapping, 
make a complete ceiling, beneath which one 
may walk erect over several acres without 
being seen, as if beneath a roof. And how 
soft and lovely the light streaming through 
this living ceiling, revealing the arching 
branching ribs and veins of the fronds as the 
framework of countless panes of pale green 
and yellow plant-glass nicely fitted together 
a fairyland created out of the commonest 

The smaller animals wander about as if 
in a tropical forest. I saw the entire flock 
of sheep vanish at one side of a patch and 

[ 53 ] 

My First Summer 

reappear a hundred yards farther on at the 
other, their progress betrayed only by the 
jerking and trembling of the fronds ; and 
strange to say very few of the stout woody 
stalks were broken. I sat a long time be- 
neath the tallest fronds, and never enjoyed any- 
thing in the way of a bower of wild leaves 
more strangely impressive. Only spread a 
fern frond over a man's head and worldly 
cares are cast out, and freedom and beauty 
and peace come in. The waving of a pine 
tree on the top of a mountain,- -a magic 
wand in Nature's hand, every devout moun- 
taineer knows its power ; but the marvel- 
ous beauty value of what the Scotch call a 
breckan in a still dell, what poet has sung 
this ? It would seem impossible that any one, 
however incrusted with care, could escape the 
Godful influence of these sacred fern forests. 
Yet this very day I saw a shepherd pass 
through one of the finest of them without 
betraying more feeling than his sheep. 
44 What do you think of these grand ferns?' 

[ 54 ] 

In the Sierra 

I asked. " Oh, they 're only d d big 
brakes," he replied. 

Lizards of every temper, style, and color 
dwell here, seemingly as happy and com- 
panionable as the birds and squirrels. Lowly, 
gentle fellow mortals, enjoying God's sun- 
shine, and doing the best they can in get- 
ting a living, I like to watch them at their 
work and play. They bear acquaintance 
well, and one likes them the better the 
longer one looks into their beautiful, inno- 
cent eyes. They are easily tamed, and one 
soon learns to love them, as they dart about 
on the hot rocks, swift as dragon-flies. The 
eye can hardly follow them; but they 
never make long-sustained runs, usually only 
about ten or twelve feet, then a sudden stop, 
and as sudden a start again; going all their 
journeys by quick, jerking impulses. These 
many stops I find are necessary as rests, for 
they are short-winded, and when pursued 
steadily are soon out of breath, pant piti- 
fully, and are easily caught. Their bodies 


My First Summer 

are more than half tail, but these tails are 
well managed, never heavily dragged nor 
curved up as if hard to carry; on the con- 
trary, they seem to follow the body lightly 
of their own will. Some are colored like 
the sky, bright as bluebirds, others gray 
like the lichened rocks on which they hunt 
and bask. Even the horned toad of the 
plains is a mild, harmless creature, and so 
are the snake-like species which glide in 
curves with true snake motion, while their 
small, undeveloped limbs drag as useless 
appendages. One specimen fourteen inches 
long which I observed closely made no 
use whatever of its tender, sprouting limbs, 
but glided with all the soft, sly ease and 
grace of a snake. Here comes a little, gray, 
dusty fellow who seems to know and trust 
me, running about my feet, and looking 
up cunningly into my face. Carlo is watch- 
ing, makes a quick pounce on him, for the 
fun of the thing I suppose; but Liz has shot 
away from his paws like an arrow, and is 

[ 56] 

In the Sierra 

safe in the recesses of a clump of chaparral. 
Gentle saurians, dragons, descendants of an 
ancient and mighty race, Heaven bless you 
all and make your virtues known ! for few 
of us know as yet that scales may cover 
fellow creatures as gentle and lovable as 
feathers, or hair, or cloth. 

Mastodons and elephants used to live here 
no great geological time ago, as shown by 
their bones, often discovered by miners in 
washing gold-gravel. And bears of at least 
two species are here now, besides the Cali- 
fornia lion or panther, and wild cats, wolves, 
foxes, snakes, scorpions, wasps, tarantulas; 
but one is almost tempted at times to regard 
a small savage black ant as the master ex- 
istence of this vast mountain world. These 
fearless, restless, wandering imps, though 
only about a quarter of an inch long, are 
fonder of fighting and biting than any beast 
I know. They attack every living thing 
around their homes, often without cause as 
far as I can see. Their bodies are mostly 

[ 57] 

My First Summer 

jaws curved like ice-hooks, and to get work 
for these weapons seems to be their chief 
aim and pleasure. Most of their colonies 
are established in living oaks somewhat 
decayed or hollowed, in which they can 
conveniently build their cells. These are 
chosen probably because of their strength 
as opposed to the attacks of animals and 
storms. They work both day and night, 
creep into dark caves, climb the highest 
trees, wander and hunt through cool ravines 
as well as on hot, unshaded ridges, and ex- 
tend their highways and byways over every- 
thing but water and sky. From the foot- 
hills to a mile above the level of the sea 
nothing can stir without their knowledge; 
and alarms are spread in an incredibly short 
time, without any howl or cry that we can 
hear. I can't understand the need of their 
ferocious courage; there seems to be no 
common sense in it. Sometimes, no doubt, 
they fight in defense of their homes, but 
they fight anywhere and always wherever 


In the Sierra 

they can find anything to bite. As soon as 
a vulnerable spot is discovered on man or 
beast, they stand on their heads and sink 
their jaws, and though torn limb from limb, 
they will yet hold on and die biting deeper. 
When I contemplate this fierce creature so 
widely distributed and strongly intrenched, 
I see that much remains to be done ere the 
world is brought under the rule of univer- 
sal peace and love. 

On my way to camp a few minutes ago, 
I passed a dead pine nearly ten feet in dia- 
meter. It has been enveloped in fire from 
top to bottom so that now it looks like a 
grand black pillar set up as a monument. 
In this noble shaft a colony of large jet- 
black ants have established themselves, la- 
boriously cutting tunnels and cells through 
the wood, whether sound or decayed. The 
entire trunk seems to have been honey- 
combed, judging by the size of the talus of 
gnawed chips like sawdust piled up around 
its base. They are more intelligent looking 

[ 59] 

My First Summer 

than their small, belligerent, strong-scented 
brethren, and have better manners, though 
quick to fight when required. Their towns 
are carved in fallen trunks as well as in 
those left standing, but never in sound, liv- 
ing trees or in the ground. When you 
happen to sit down to rest or take notes 
near a colony, some wandering hunter is 
sure to find you and come cautiously for- 
ward to discover the nature of the intruder 
and what ought to be done. If you are not 
too near the town and keep perfectly still he 
may run across your feet a few times, over 
your legs and hands and face, up your trou- 
sers, as if taking your measure and getting 
comprehensive views, then go in peace 
without raising an alarm. If, however, a 
tempting spot is offered or some suspicious 
movement excites him, a bite follows, and 
such a bite! I fancy that a bear or wolf 
bite is not to be compared with it. A quick 
electric flame of pain flashes along the out- 
raged nerves, and you discover for the first 


In the Sierra 

time how great is the capacity for sensation 
you are possessed of. A shriek, a grab for 
the animal, and a bewildered stare follow 
this bite of bites as one comes back to con- 
sciousness from sudden eclipse. Fortunately, 
if careful, one need not be bitten oftener 
than once or twice in a lifetime. This won- 
derful electric species is about three fourths 
of an inch long. Bears are fond of them, and 
tear and gnaw their home-logs to pieces, 
and roughly devour the eggs, larvae, parent 
ants, and the rotten or sound wood of the 
cells, all in one spicy acid hash. The Digger 
Indians also are fond of the larvae and even 
of the perfect ants, so I have been told by 
old mountaineers. They bite off and reject 
the head, and eat the tickly acid body with 
keen relish. Thus are the poor biters bitten, 
like every other biter, big or little, in the 
world's great family. 

There is also a fine, active, intelligent- 
looking red species, intermediate in size be- 
tween the above. They dwell in the ground, 

[61 ] 

My First Summer 

and build large piles of seed husks, leaves, 
straw, etc., over their nests. Their food 
seems to be mostly insects and plant leaves, 
seeds and sap. How many mouths Nature 
has to fill, how many neighbors we have, 
how little we know about them, and how 
seldom we get in each other's way! Then 
to think of the infinite numbers of smaller 
fellow mortals, invisibly small, compared 
with which the smallest ants are as masto- 

"June 14. The pool-basins below the 
falls and cascades hereabouts, formed by 
the heavy down-plunging currents, are kept 
nicely clean and clear of detritus. The heav- 
ier parts of the material swept over the falls 
are heaped up a short distance in front of the 
basins in the form of a dam, thus tending, 
together with erosion, to increase their size. 
Sudden changes, however, are effected during 
the spring floods, when the snow is melting 
and the upper tributaries are roaring loud 
from "bank to brae." Then boulders that 

[ 62 ] 

In the Sierra 

have fallen into the channels, and which the 
ordinary summer and winter currents were 
unable to move, are suddenly swept forward 
as by a mighty besom, hurled over the falls 
into these pools, and piled up in a new dam 
together with part of the old one, while some 
of the smaller boulders are carried further 
down stream and variously lodged according 
to size and shape, all seeking rest where the 
force of the current is less than the resist- 
ance they are able to offer. But the greatest 
changes made in these relations of fall, pool, 
and dam are caused, not by the ordinary spring 
floods, but by extraordinary ones that occur 
at irregular intervals. The testimony of trees 
growing on flood boulder deposits shows that 
a century or more has passed since the last 
master flood came to awaken everything 
movable to go swirling and dancing on won- 
derful journeys. These floods may occur dur- 
ing the summer, when heavy thunder-show- 
ers, called " cloud-bursts," fall on wide, steeply 
inclined stream basins furrowed by converg- 

[ 63 ] 

My First Summer 

ing channels, which suddenly gather the 
waters together into the main trunk in 
booming torrents of enormous transporting 
power, though short lived. 

One of these ancient flood boulders stands 
firm in the middle of the stream channel, 
just below the lower edge of the pool dam 
at the foot of the fall nearest our camp. It is 
a nearly cubical mass of granite about eight 
feet high, plushed with mosses over the top 
and down the sides to ordinary high-water 
mark. When I climbed on top of it to-day 
and lay down to rest, it seemed the most ro- 
mantic spot I had yet found, - - the one big 
stone with its mossy level top and smooth 
sides standing square and firm and solitary, 
like an altar, the fall in front of it bathing it 
lightly with the finest of the spray, just enough 
to keep its moss cover fresh ; the clear green 
pool beneath, with its foam-bells and its half 
circle of lilies leaning forward like a band of 
admirers, and flowering dogwood and alder 
trees leaning over all in sun-sifted arches. 


In the Sierra 

How soothingly, restfully cool it is beneath 
that leafy, translucent ceiling, and how de- 
lightful the water music the deep bass 
tones of the fall, the clashing, ringing spray, 
and infinite variety of small low tones of the 
current gliding past the side of the boulder- 
island, and glinting against a thousand smaller 
stones down the ferny channel ! All this shut 
in; every one of these influences acting at 
short range as if in a quiet room. The place 
seemed holy, where one might hope to see 

After dark, when the camp was at rest, I 
groped my way back to the altar boulder and 
passed the night on it, above the water, 
beneath the leaves and stars, - - everything 
still more impressive than by day, the fall 
seen dimly white, singing Nature's old love 
song with solemn enthusiasm, while the 
stars peering through the leaf-roof seemed 
to join in the white water's song. Precious 
night, precious day to abide in me forever. 
Thanks be to God for this immortal gift. 

[ 65 ] 

My First Summer 

June 15.- -Another reviving morning. 
Down the long mountain-slopes the sun- 
beams pour, gilding the awakening pines, 
cheering every needle, filling every living 
thing with joy. Robins are singing in the 
alder and maple groves, the same old song 
that has cheered and sweetened countless 
seasons over almost all of our blessed con- 
tinent. In this mountain hollow he seems 
as much at home as in farmers' orchards. 
Bullock's oriole and the Louisiana tanager 
are here also, with many warblers and other 
little mountain troubadours, most of them 
now busy about their nests. 

Discovered another magnificent specimen 
of the goldcup oak six feet in diameter, a 
Douglas spruce seven feet, and a twining lily 
( Strop holirion}, with stem eight feet long, 
and sixty rose-colored flowers. 

Sugar pine cones are cylindrical, slightly 
tapered at the end and rounded at the base. 
Found one to-day nearly twenty-four inches 

long and six in diameter, the scales being 


In the Sierra 

open. Another specimen nineteen inches 
long ; the average length of full-grown 


cones on trees favorably situated is nearly 
eighteen inches. On the lower edge of the 
belt at a height of about twenty-five hun- 


My First Summer 

dred feet above the sea they are smaller, say 
a foot to fifteen inches long, and at a height 
of seven thousand feet or more near the 
upper limits of its growth in the Yosemite 
region they are about the same size. This 
noble tree is an inexhaustible study and 
source of pleasure. I never weary of gaz- 
ing at its grand tassel cones, its perfectly 
round bole one hundred feet or more 
without a limb, the fine purplish color of 
its bark, and its magnificent outsweeping, 
down-curving feathery arms forming a 
crown always bold and striking and exhila- 
rating. In habit and general port it looks 
somewhat like a palm, but no palm that I 
have yet seen displays such majesty of form 
and behavior either when poised silent and 
thoughtful in sunshine, or wide-awake wav- 
ing in storm winds with every needle quiv- 
ering. When young it is very straight and 
regular in form like most other conifers ; but 
at the age of fifty to one hundred years it be- 
gins to acquire individuality, so that no two 

[ 68 ] 

A Sugar Pine (on the left] 

In the Sierra 

are alike in their prime or old age. Every 
tree calls for special admiration. I have 
been making many sketches, and regret that 
I cannot draw every needle. It is said to reach 
a height of three hundred feet, though the 
tallest I have measured falls short of this 
stature sixty feet or more. The diameter of 
the largest near the ground is about ten feet, 
though I 've heard of some twelve feet thick 
or even fifteen. The diameter is held to a 
great height, the taper being almost imper- 
ceptibly gradual. Its companion, the yellow 
pine, is almost as large. The long silvery 
foliage of the younger specimens forms mag- 
nificent cylindrical brushes on the top shoots 
and the ends of the upturned branches, and 
when the wind sways the needles all one 
way at a certain angle every tree becomes 
a tower of white quivering sun-fire. Well 
may this shining species be called the silver 
pine. The needles are sometimes more than 
a foot long, almost as long as those of the 
long-leaf pine of Florida. But though in 

My First Summer 

size the yellow pine almost equals the sugar 
pine, and in rugged enduring strength seems 
to surpass it, it is far less marked in general 
habit and expression, with its regular con- 
ventional spire and its comparatively small 
cones clustered stiffly among the needles. 
Were there no sugar pine, then would this 
be the king of the world's eighty or ninety 
species, the brightest of the bright, waving, 
worshiping multitude. Were they mere me- 
chanical sculptures, what noble objects they 
would still be ! How much more throb- 
bing, thrilling, overflowing, full of life in 
every fibre and cell, grand glowing silver- 
rods the very gods of the plant kingdom, 
living their sublime century lives in sight 
of Heaven, watched and loved and admired 
from generation to generation ! And how 
many other radiant resiny sun trees are here 
and higher up, libocedrus, Douglas spruce, 
silver fir, sequoia. How rich our inheritance 
in these blessed mountains, the tree pastures 
into which our eyes are turned! 

[ 70] 

In the Sierra 

Now comes sundown. The west is all a 
glory of color transfiguring everything. Far 
up the Pilot Peak Ridge the radiant host of 
trees stand hushed and thoughtful, receiving 
the Sun's good-night, as solemn and impres- 
sive a leave-taking as if sun and trees were to 
meet no more. The daylight fades, the color 
spell is broken, and the forest breathes free 
in the night breeze beneath the stars. 

"June 1 6. One of the Indians from 
Brown's Flat got right into the middle of 
the camp this morning, unobserved. I was 
seated on a stone, looking over my notes and 
sketches, and happening to look up, was 
startled to see him standing grim and silent 
within a few steps of me, as motionless and 
weather-stained as an old tree-stump that had 
stood there for centuries. All Indians seem 
to have learned this wonderful way of walk- 
ing unseen, - -making themselves invisible 
like certain spiders I have been observing 
here, which, in case of alarm, caused, for ex- 
ample, by a bird alighting on the bush their 

My First Summer 

webs are spread upon, immediately bounce 
themselves up and down on their elastic 
threads so rapidly that only a blur is visible. 
The wild Indian power of escaping observa- 
tion, even where there is little or no cover 
to hide in, was probably slowly acquired in 
hard hunting and fighting lessons while try- 
ing to approach game, take enemies by sur- 
prise, or get safely away when compelled 
to retreat. And this experience transmitted 
through many generations seems at length to 
have become what is vaguely called instinct. 
How smooth and changeless seems the 
surface of the mountains about us ! Scarce a 
track is to be found beyond the range of the 
sheep except on small open spots on the sides 
of the streams, or where the forest carpets are 
thin or wanting. On the smoothest of these 
open strips and patches deer tracks may be 
seen, and the great suggestive footprints of 
bears, which, with those of the many small 
animals, are scarce enough to answer as a kind 
of light ornamental stitching or embroidery. 

[72 1 

In the Sierra 

Along the main ridges and larger branches of 
the river Indian trails may be traced, but they 
are not nearly as distinct as one would expect 
to find them. How many centuries Indians 
have roamed these woods nobody knows, 
probably a great many, extending far beyond 
the time that Columbus touched our shores, 
and it seems strange that heavier marks have 
not been made. Indians walk softly and hurt 
the landscape hardly more than the birds and 
squirrels, and their brush and bark huts last 
hardly longer than those of wood rats, while 
their more enduring monuments, excepting 
those wrought on the forests by the fires they 
made to improve their hunting grounds, van- 
ish in a few centuries. 

How different are most of those of the 
white man, especially on the lower gold re- 
gion, roads blasted in the solid rock, wild 
streams dammed and tamed and turned out 
of their channels and led along the sides of 
canons and valleys to work in mines like 
slaves. Crossing from ridge to ridge, high in 
* [ 73 ] 

My First Summer 

the air, on long straddling trestles as if flow- 
ing on stilts, or down and up across valleys 
and hills, imprisoned in iron pipes to strike 
and wash away hills and miles of the skin 
of the mountain's face, riddling, stripping 
every gold gully and flat. These are the 
white man's marks made in a few feverish 
years, to say nothing of mills, fields, villages, 
scattered hundreds of miles along the flank 
of the Range. Long will it be ere these 
marks are effaced, though Nature is doing 
what she can, replanting, gardening, sweep- 
ing away old dams and flumes, leveling 
gravel and boulder piles, patiently trying to 
heal every raw scar. The main gold storm is 
over. Calm enough are the gray old miners 
scratching a bare living in waste diggings 
here and there. Thundering underground 
blasting is still going on to feed the pound- 
ing quartz mills, but their influence on the 
landscape is light as compared with that of 
the pick-and-shovel storms waged a few 
years ago. Fortunately for Sierra scenery the 

[ 74 ] 

In the Sierra 

gold-bearing slates are mostly restricted to 
the foothills. The region about our camp 
is still wild, and higher lies the snow about 
as trackless as the sky. 

Only a few hills and domes of cloudland 
were built yesterday and none at all to-day. 
The light is peculiarly white and thin, 
though pleasantly warm. The serenity of 
this mountain weather in the spring, just 
when Nature's pulses are beating highest, 
is one of its greatest charms. There is only 
a moderate breeze from the summits of the 
Range at night, and a slight breathing from 
the sea and the lowland hills and plains 
during the day, or stillness so complete no 
leaf stirs. The trees hereabouts have but 
little wind history to tell. 

Sheep, like people, are ungovernable when 
hungry. Excepting my guarded lily gardens, 
almost every leaf that these hoofed locusts 
can reach within a radius of a mile or two 
from camp has been devoured. Even the 
bushes are stripped bare, and in spite of 

t 75 ] 

My First Summer 

dogs and shepherds the sheep scatter to all 
points of the compass and vanish in dust. I 
fear some are lost, for one of the sixteen 
black ones is missing. 

"June 17. Counted the wool bundles 
this morning as they bounced through the 
narrow corral gate. About three hundred 
are missing, and as the shepherd could not 
go to seek them, I had to go. I tied a crust 
of bread to my belt, and with Carlo set out 
for the upper slopes of the Pilot Peak Ridge, 
and had a good day, notwithstanding the 
care of seeking the silly runaways. I went 
out for wool, and did not come back shorn. 
A peculiar light circled around the horizon, 
white and thin like that often seen over the 
auroral corona, blending into the blue of the 
upper sky. The only clouds were a few 
faint flossy pencilings like combed silk. I 


pushed direct to the boundary of the usual 
range of the flock, and around it until I 
found the outgoing trail of the wanderers. 
It led far up the ridge into an open place 

[ 76 ] 

In the Sierra 

surrounded by a hedge-like growth of cea- 
nothus chaparral. Carlo knew what I was 
about, and eagerly followed the scent until 
we came up to them, huddled in a timid, si- 
lent bunch. They had evidently been here all 
night and all the forenoon, afraid to go out 
to feed. Having escaped restraint, they were, 
like some people we know of, afraid of their 
freedom, did not know what to do with it, 
and seemed glad to get back into the old 
familiar bondage. 

June i 8. Another inspiring morning, 
nothing better in any world can be con- 
ceived. No description of Heaven that I 
have ever heard or read of seems half so 
fine. At noon the clouds occupied about 
.05 of the sky, white filmy touches drawn 
delicately on the azure. 

The high ridges and hilltops beyond 
the woolly locusts are now gay with mon- 
ardella, clarkia, coreopsis, and tall tufted 
grasses, some of them tall enough to wave 
like pines. The lupines, of which there are 

[ 77 ] 

My First Summer 

many ill-defined species, are now mostly out 
of flower, and many of the composite are 
beginning to fade, their radiant corollas van- 
ishing in fluffy pappus like stars in mist. 

We had another visitor from Brown's 
Flat to-day, an old Indian woman with a 
basket on her back. Like our first caller 
from the village, she got fairly into camp 
and was standing in plain view when dis- 
covered. How long she had been quietly 
looking on, I cannot say. Even the dogs 
failed to notice her stealthy approach. She 
was on her way, I suppose, to some wild 
garden, probably for lupine and starchy 
saxifrage leaves and rootstocks. Her dress 
was calico rags, far from clean. In every 
way she seemed sadly unlike Nature's neat 
well-dressed animals,though living like them 
on the bounty of the wilderness. Strange 
that mankind alone is dirty. Had she been 
clad in fur, or cloth woven of grass or 
shreddy bark, like the juniper and liboce- 
drus mats, she might then have seemed a 

[ 78 ] 

In the Sierra 

rightful part of the wilderness ; like a good 
wolf at least, or bear. But from no point of 
view that I have found are such debased 
fellow beings a whit more natural than 
the glaring tailored tourists we saw that 
frightened the birds and squirrels. 

"June 19. Pure sunshine all day. How 
beautiful a rock is made by leaf shadows! 
Those of the live oak are particularly clear 
and distinct, and beyond all art in grace and 
delicacy, now still as if painted on stone, 
now gliding softly as if afraid of noise, now 
dancing, waltzing in swift, merry swirls, or 
jumping on and off sunny rocks in quick 
dashes like wave embroidery on seashore 
cliffs. How true and substantial is this shadow 
beauty, and with what sublime extravagance 
is beauty thus multiplied! The big orange 
lilies are now arrayed in all their glory of 
leal and flower. Noble plants, in perfect 
health, Nature's darlings. 

yune 20. Some of the silly sheep got 
caught fast in a tangle of chaparral this 


My First Summer 

morning, like flies in a spider's web, and had 
to be helped out. Carlo found them and tried 
to drive them from the trap by the easiest 
way. How far above sheep are intelligent 
dogs! No friend and helper can be more 
affectionate and constant than Carlo. The 
noble St. Bernard is an honor to his race. 

The air is distinctly fragrant with balsam 
and resin and mint, every breath of it a 
gift we may well thank God for. Who 
could ever guess that so rough a wilderness 
should yet be so fine, so full of good things. 
One seems to be in a majestic domed pavil- 
ion in which a grand play is being acted 
with scenery and music and incense, all 
the furniture and action so interesting we 
are in no danger of being called on to en- 
dure one dull moment. God himself seems 
to be always doing his best here, working 
like a man in a glow of enthusiasm. 

Ju?ie 21. Sauntered along the river-bank 
to my lily gardens. The perfection of 

beauty in these lilies of the wilderness is a 


In the Sierra 

never-ending source of admiration and won- 
der. Their rhizomes are set in black mould 
accumulated in hollows of the metamor- 
phic slates beside the pools, where they are 
well watered without being subjected to 
flood action. Every leaf in the level whorls 
around the tall polished stalks is as finely 
finished as the petals, and the light and 
heat required are measured for them and 
tempered in passing through the branches 
of over-leaning trees. However strong the 
winds from the noon rain-storms, they are 
securely sheltered. Beautiful hypnum car- 
pets bordered with ferns are spread beneath 
them, violets too, and a few daisies. Every- 
thing around them sweet and fresh like 

Cloudland to-day is only a solitary white 
mountain ; but it is so enriched with sunshine 
and shade, the tones of color on its big domed 
head and bossy outbulging ridges, and in the 
hollows and ravines between them, are inef- 
fably fine. 

[ 81 ] 

My First Summer 

22. Unusually cloudy. Besides 
the periodical shower-bearing cumuli there 
is a thin diffused fog-like cloud overhead. 
About .75 in all. 

'June 23.- -Oh, these vast, calm, mea- 
sureless mountain days, inciting at once to 
work and rest ! Days in whose light every- 
thing seems equally divine, opening a thou- 
sand windows to show us God. Nevermore, 
however weary, should one faint by the way 
who gains the blessings of one mountain day ; 
whatever his fate, long life, short life, stormy 
or calm, he is rich forever. 

June 24. Our regular allowance of 
clouds and thunder. Shepherd Billy is in a 
peck of trouble about the sheep; he declares 
that they are possessed with more of the evil 
one than any other flock from the beginning 
of the invention of mutton and wool to the 
last batch of it. No matter how many are 
missing, he will not, he says, go a step to seek 
them, because, as he reasons, while getting 

back one wanderer he would probably lose 

[82 ] 

In the Sierra 

ten. Therefore runaway hunting must be 
Carlo's and mine. Billy's little dog Jack is 
also giving trouble by leaving camp every 
night to visit his neighbors up the mountain 
at Brown's Flat. He is a common-looking 
cur of no particular breed, but tremendously 
enterprising in love and war. He has cut all 
the ropes and leather straps he has been tied 
with, until his master in desperation, after 
climbing the brushy mountain again and 
again to drag him back, fastened him with a 
pole attached to his collar under his chin at 
one end, and to a stout sapling at the other. 
But the pole gave good leverage, and by con- 
stant twisting during the night, the fastening 
at the sapling end was chafed off, and he set 
out on his usual journey, dragging the pole 
through the brush, and reached the Indian 
settlement in safety. His master followed, 
and making no allowance, gave him a beat- 
ing, and swore in bad terms that next even- 
ing he would "fix that infatuated pup" by 
anchoring him unmercifully to the heavy 

[ 83 ] 

My First Summer 

cast-iron lid of our Dutch oven, weighing 
about as much as the dog. It was linked di- 
rectly to his collar close up under the chin, 
so that the poor fellow seemed unable to stir. 
He stood quite discouraged until after dark, 
unable to look about him, or even to lie down 
unless he stretched himself out with his front 
feet across the lid, and his head close down 
between his paws. Before morning, how- 
ever, Jack was heard far up the height 
howling Excelsior, cast-iron anchor to the 
contrary notwithstanding. He must have 
walked, or rather climbed, erect on his hind 
legs, clasping the heavy lid like a shield 
against his breast, a formidable iron-clad 
condition in which to meet his rivals. Next 
night, dog, pot-lid, and all, were tied up in 
an old bean-sack, and thus at last angry Billy 
gained the victory. Just before leaving home, 
Jack was bitten in the lower jaw by a rattle- 
snake, and for a week or so his head and neck 
were swollen to more than double the nor- 
mal size; nevertheless he ran about as brisk 

[ 84 ] 

In the Sierra 

and lively as ever, and is now completely 
recovered. The only treatment he got was 
fresh milk, a gallon or two at a time forci- 
bly poured down his sore, poisoned throat. 

June 25. Though only a sheep camp, 
this grand mountain hollow is home, sweet 
home, every day growing sweeter, and I 
shall be sorry to leave it. The lily gardens 
are safe as yet from the trampling flock. 
Poor, dusty, raggedy, famishing creatures, I 
heartily pity them. Many a mile they must 
go every day to gather their fifteen or 
twenty tons of chaparral and grass. 

June 26. Nuttall's flowering dogwood 
makes a fine show when in bloom. The 
whole tree is then snowy white. The invo- 
lucres are six to eight inches wide. Along 
the streams it is a good-sized tree thirty to 
fifty feet high, with a broad head when not 
crowded by companions. Its showy invo- 
lucres attract a crowd of moths, butterflies, 
and other winged people about it for their 
own and, I suppose, the tree's advantage. It 

[ 8$ ] 

My First Summer 

likes plenty of cool water, and is a great 
drinker like the alder, willow, and cotton- 
wood, and flourishes best on stream banks, 
though it often wanders far from streams in 
damp shady glens beneath the pines, where 
it is much smaller. When the leaves ripen 
in the fall, they become more beautiful 
than the flowers, displaying charming tones 
of red, purple, and lavender. Another species 
grows in abundance as a chaparral shrub 
on the shady sides of the hills, probably 
Cornus sessilis. The leaves are eaten by the 
sheep. Heard a few lightning strokes in 
the distance, with rumbling, mumbling re- 

June 27. The beaked hazel (Cory Ins 
rostrata, var. Calif ornica\ is common on cool 
slopes up toward the summit of the Pilot 
Peak Ridge. There is something peculiarly 
attractive in the hazel, like the oaks and 
heaths of the cool countries of our fore- 
fathers, and through them our love for these 
plants has, I suppose, been transmitted. This 

[ 86 ] 

In the Sierra 

species is four or five feet high, leaves soft 
and hairy, grateful to the touch, and the de- 
licious nuts are eagerly gathered by Indians 
and squirrels. The sky as usual adorned 
with white noon clouds. 

"June 28.- Warm, mellow summer. 
The glowing sunbeams make every nerve 
tingle. The new needles of the pines and 
firs are nearly full grown and shine glori- 
ously. Lizards are glinting about on the hot 
rocks; some that live near the camp are 
more than half tame. They seem attentive to 
every movement on our part, as if curious to 
simply look on without suspicion of harm, 
turning their heads to look back, and making 
a variety of pretty gestures. Gentle, guileless 
creatures with beautiful eyes, I shall be sorry 
to leave them when we leave camp. 

"June 29. I have been making the ac- 
quaintance of a very interesting little bird 
that flits about the falls and rapids of the 
main branches of the river. It is not a 
water-bird in structure, though it gets its 

[ 87 ] 

My First Summer 

living in the water, and never leaves the 
streams. It is not web-footed, yet it dives 
fearlessly into deep swirling rapids, evi- 
dently to feed at the bottom, using its wings 
to swim wdth under water just as ducks and 
loons do. Sometimes it wades about in 
shallow places, thrusting its head under 
from time to time in a jerking, nodding, 
frisky way that is sure to attract attention. 
It is about the size of a robin, has short crisp 
wings serviceable for flying either in water 
or air, and a tail of moderate size slanted 
upward, giving it, with its nodding, bobbing 
manners, a wrennish look. Its color is plain 
bluish ash, with a tinge of brown on the 
head and shoulders. It flies from fall to fall, 
rapid to rapid, with a solid whir of wing- 
beats like those of a quail, folio ws the wind- 
ings of the stream, and usually alights on 
some rock jutting up out of the current, or 
on some stranded snag, or rarely on the dry 
limb of an overhanging tree, perching like 
regular tree birds when it suits its conven- 

[ 88 ] 

In the Sierra 

ience. It has the oddest, daintiest mincing 
manners imaginable; and the little fellow 
can sing too, a sweet, thrushy, fluty song, 
rather low, not the least boisterous, and 
much less keen and accentuated than from 
its vigorous briskness one would be led to 
look for. What a romantic life this little 


bird leads on the most beautiful portions of 
the streams, in a genial climate with shade 
and cool water and spray to temper the 
summer heat. No wonder it is a fine singer, 
considering the stream songs it hears day 
and night. Every breath the little poet 
draws is part of a song, for all the air about 
the rapids and falls is beaten into music, 
and its first lessons must begin before it is 
born by the thrilling and quivering of the 
eggs in unison with the tones of the falls. I 
have not yet found its nest, but it must be 
near the streams, for it never leaves them. 

June 30. Half cloudy, half sunny, clouds 
lustrous white. The tall pines crowded 
along the top of the Pilot Peak Ridge look 

[ 89] 

My First Summer 

like six-inch miniatures exquisitely out- 
lined on the satiny sky. Average cloudiness 
for the day about .25. No rain. And so this 
memorable month ends, a stream of beauty 
unmeasured, no more to be sectioned off 
by almanac arithmetic than sun-radiance 
or the currents of seas and rivers a peace- 
ful, joyful stream of beauty. Every morning, 
arising from the death of sleep, the happy 
plants and all our fellow animal creatures 
great and small, and even the rocks, seemed 
to be shouting, "Awake, awake, rejoice, 
rejoice, come love us and join in our song. 
Come! Come!' Looking back through the 
stillness and romantic enchanting beauty and 
peace of the camp grove, this June seems 
the greatest of all the months of my life, 
the most truly, divinely free, boundless like 
eternity, immortal. Everything in it seems 
equally divine one smooth, pure, wild 
glow of Heaven's love, never to be blotted 
or blurred by anything past or to come. 
"July i. Summer is ripe. Flocks of seeds 

[ 90 ] 

In the Sierra 

are already out of their cups and pods seek- 
ing their predestined places. Some will strike 
root and grow up beside their parents, others 
flying on the wings of the wind far from 
them, among strangers. Most of the young 
birds are full feathered and out of their nests, 
though still looked after by both father and 
mother, protected and fed and to some ex- 
tent educated. How beautiful the home life 
of birds ! No wonder we all love them. 

I like to watch the squirrels. There are 
two species here, the large California gray 
and the Douglas. The latter is the brightest 
of all the squirrels I have ever seen, a hot 
spark of life, making every tree tingle with 
his prickly toes, a condensed nugget of fresh 
mountain vigor and valor, as free from dis- 
ease as a sunbeam. One cannot think of 
such an animal ever being weary or sick. 
He seems to think the mountains belong to 
him, and at first tried to drive away the 
whole flock of sheep as well as the shepherd 
and dogs. How he scolds, and what faces 

My First Summer 

he makes, all eyes, teeth, and whiskers ! If 
not so comically small, he would indeed be 
a dreadful fellow. I should like to know 
more about his bringing up, his life in the 
home knot-hole, as w r ell as in the tree-tops, 


throughout all seasons. Strange that I have 
not yet found a nest full of young ones. The 
Douglas is nearly allied to the red squirrel 
of the Atlantic slope, and may have been dis- 
tributed to this side of the continent by way 

of the great unbroken forests of the north. 


In the Sierra 

The California gray is one of the most 
beautiful, and, next to the Douglas, the 
most interesting of our hairy neighbors. 
Compared with the Douglas he is twice as 
large, but far less lively and influential as 
a worker in the woods, and he manages to 
make his way through leaves and branches 
with less stir than his small brother. I have 
never heard him bark at anything except 
our dogs. When in search of food he glides 
silently from branch to branch, examining 
last year's cones, to see whether some few 
seeds may not be left between the scales, 
or gleans fallen ones among the leaves on 
the ground, since none of the present sea- 
son's crop is yet available. His tail floats 
now behind him, now above him, level 
or gracefully curled like a wisp of cirrus 
cloud, every hair in its place, clean and 
shining and radiant as thistle-down in spite 
of rough, gummy work. His whole body 
seems about as unsubstantial as his tail. The 
little Douglas is fiery, peppery, full of brag 

[93 ] 

My First Summer 

and fight and show, with movements so 
quick and keen they almost sting the on- 
looker, and the harlequin gyrating show 
he makes of himself turns one giddy to see. 
The gray is shy, and oftentimes stealthy in 
his movements, as if half expecting an enemy 
in every tree and bush, and back of every 
log, wishing only to be let alone apparently, 
and manifesting no desire to be seen or 
admired or feared. The Indians hunt this 
species for food, a good cause for caution, 
not to mention other enemies, hawks, 
snakes, wild cats. In woods where food is 
abundant they wear paths through shelter- 
ing thickets and over prostrate trees to some 
favorite pool where in hot and dry weather 
they drink at nearly the same hour every 
day. These pools are said to be narrowly 
watched, especially by the boys, who lie in 
ambush with bow and arrow, and kill with- 
out noise. But, in spite of enemies, squirrels 
are happy fellows, forest favorites, types of 
tireless life. Of all Nature's wild beasts, they 

[ 94 ] 

In the Sierra 

seem to me the wildest. May we come to 
know each other better. 

The chaparral-covered hill-slope to the 
south of the camp, besides furnishing nest- 
ing-places for countless merry birds, is the 
home and hiding-place of the curious wood 
rat (Neotoma), a handsome, interesting ani- 
mal, always attracting attention wherever 
seen. It is more like a squirrel than a rat, is 
much larger, has delicate, thick, soft fur of 
a bluish slate color, white on the belly; ears 
large, thin, and translucent ; eyes soft, full, 
and liquid; claws slender, sharp as needles; 
and as his limbs are strong, he can climb 
about as well as a squirrel. No rat or squir- 
rel has so innocent a look, is so easily ap- 
proached, or expresses such confidence in 
one's good intentions. He seems too fine for 
the thorny thickets he inhabits, and his hut 
also is as unlike himself as may be., though 
softly furnished inside. No other animal in- 
habitant of these mountains builds houses so 
large and striking in appearance. The trav- 

[95 ] 

My First Summer 

eler coming suddenly upon a group of them 
for the first time will not be likely to forget 
them. They are built of all kinds of sticks, 
old rotten pieces picked up anywhere, and 
green prickly twigs bitten from the nearest 
bushes, the whole mixed with miscellaneous 
odds and ends of everything movable, such 
as bits of cloddy earth, stones, bones, deer- 
horn, etc., piled up in a conical mass as 
if it were got ready for burning. Some of 
these curious cabins are six feet high and as 
wide at the base, and a dozen or more of 
them are occasionally grouped together, less 
perhaps for the sake of society than for advan- 
tages of food and shelter. Coming through 
the dense shaggy thickets of some lonely 
hillside, the solitary explorer happening into 
one of these strange villages is startled at the 
sight, and may fancy himself in an Indian 
settlement, and begin to wonder what kind 
of reception he is likely to get. But no sav- 
age face will he see, perhaps not a single 
inhabitant, or at most two or three seated 


In the Sierra 

on top of their wigwams, looking at the 
stranger with the mildest of wild eyes, and 
allowing a near approach. In the centre of 
the rough spiky hut a soft nest is made of 
the inner fibres of bark chewed to tow, and 
lined with feathers and the down of vari- 
ous seeds, such as willow and milkweed. 
The delicate creature in its prickly, thick- 
walled home suggests a tender flower in a 
thorny involucre. Some of the nests are 
built in trees thirty or forty feet from the 
ground, and even in garrets, as if seeking 
the company and protection of man, like 
swallows and linnets, though accustomed to 
the wildest solitude. Among housekeepers 
Neotoma has the reputation of a thief, be- 
cause he carries away everything transport- 
able to his queer hut, knives, forks, 
combs, nails, tin cups, spectacles, etc., 
merely, however, to strengthen his forti- 
fications, I guess. His food at home, as far 
as I have learned, is nearly the same as that 
of the squirrels, nuts, berries, seeds, and 

[97 ] 

My First Summer 

sometimes the bark and tender shoots of the 
various species of ceanothus. 

July 2.- Warm, sunny day, thrilling 
plant and animals and rocks alike, making 
sap and blood flow fast, and making every 
particle of the crystal mountains throb and 
swirl and dance in glad accord like star-dust. 
No dullness anywhere visible or thinkable. 
No stagnation, no death. Everything kept 
in joyful rhythmic motion in the pulses of 
Nature's big heart. 

Pearl cumuli over the higher mountains, 
clouds, not with a silver lining, but all 
silver. The brightest, crispest, rockiest-look- 
ing clouds, most varied in features and 
keenest in outline I ever saw at any time of 
year in any country. The daily building and 
unbuilding of these snowy cloud-ranges 
the highest Sierra is a prime marvel to 
me,and I gaze at the stupendous white domes, 
miles high, with ever fresh admiration. But 
in the midst of these sky and mountain af- 
fairs a change of diet is pulling us down. 

[98 1 

In the Sierra 

We have been out of bread a few days, and 
begin to miss it more than seems reasonable, 
for we have plenty of meat and sugar and tea. 
Strange we should feel food-poor in so rich 
a wilderness. The Indians put us to shame, 
so do the squirrels, - - starchy roots and seeds 
and bark in abundance, yet the failure of the 
meal sack disturbs our bodily balance, and 
threatens our best enjoyments. 

"July 3. Warm. Breeze just enough to 
sift through the woods and waft fragrance 
from their thousand fountains. The pine 
and fir cones are growing well, resin and 
balsam dripping from every tree, and seeds 
are ripening fast, promising a fine harvest. 
The squirrels will have bread. They eat all 
kinds of nuts long before they are ripe, and 
yet never seem to suffer in stomach. 

"July 4. The air beyond the flock 
range, full of the essences of the woods, 
is growing sweeter and more fragrant from 
day to day, like ripening fruit. 

Mr. Delaney is expected to arrive soon 


My f}rsf Summer 

from the lowlands with a new stock of 
provisions, and as the flock is to be moved 
to fresh pastures we shall all be well fed. 
In the mean time our stock of beans as 
well as flour has failed everything but 
mutton, sugar, and tea. The shepherd is 
somewhat demoralized, and seems to care 
but little what becomes of his flock. He 
says that since the boss has failed to feed 
him he is not rightly bound to feed the 
sheep, and swears that no decent white 
man can climb these steep mountains on 
mutton alone. "It's not fittin' grub for a 
white man really white. For dogs and coy- 
otes and Indians it 's different. Good grub, 
good sheep. That 's what I say.' : Such was 
Billy's Fourth of July oration. 

"July 5. The clouds of noon on the 
high Sierra seem yet more marvelously, in- 
describably beautiful from day to day as 
one becomes more wakeful to see them. 
The smoke of the gunpowder burned yes- 
terday on the lowlands, and the eloquence 

In the Sierra 

of the orators has probably settled or been 
blown away by this time. Here every day 
is a holiday, a jubilee ever sounding with 
serene enthusiasm, without wear or waste or 
cloying weariness. Everything rejoicing. 
Not a single cell or crystal unvisited or for- 

July 6.- -Mr. Delaney has not arrived, 
and the bread famine is sore. We must eat 
mutton a while longer, though it seems hard 
to get accustomed to it. I have heard of 
Texas pioneers living without bread or any- 
thing made from the cereals for months 
without suffering, using the breast-meat of 
wild turkeys for bread. Of this kind they 
had plenty in the good old days when life, 
though considered less safe, was fussed over 
the less. The trappers and fur traders of 
early days in the Rocky Mountain regions 
lived on bison and beaver meat for months. 
Salmon-eaters, too, there are among both 
Indians and whites who seem to suffer little 
or not at all from the want of bread. Just 

[ 101 ] 

My First Summer 

at this moment mutton seems the least de- 
sirable of food, though of good quality. We 
pick out the leanest bits, and down they 
go against heavy disgust, causing nausea 
and an effort to reject the offensive stuff. 
Tea makes matters worse, if possible. The 
stomach begins to assert itself as an inde- 
pendent creature with a will of its own. 
We should boil lupine leaves, clover, starchy 
petioles, and saxifrage rootstocks like the 
Indians. We try to ignore our gastric 
troubles, rise and gaze about us, turn our 
eyes to the mountains, and climb doggedly 
up through brush and rocks into the heart 
of the scenery. A stifled calm comes on, 
and the day's duties and even enjoyments 
are languidly got through with. We chew 
a few leaves of ceanothus by way of lunch- 
eon, and smell or chew the spicy monardella 
for the dull headache and stomach-ache 
that now lightens, now comes muffling 
down upon us and into us like fog. At night 
more mutton, flesh to flesh, down with it, 

In the Sierra 

not too much, and there are the stars shin- 
ing through the cedar plumes and branches 
above our beds. 

July 7. Rather weak and sickish this 
morning, and all about a piece of bread. 
Can scarce command attention to my best 
studies, as if one could n't take a few days' 
saunter in the Godful woods without main- 
taining a base on a wheat-field and grist- 
mill. Like caged parrots we want a cracker, 
any of the hundred kinds, the remainder 
biscuit of a voyage around the world would 
answer well enough, nor would the whole- 
someness of saleratus biscuit be questioned. 
Bread without flesh is a good diet, as on many 
botanical excursions I have proved. Tea 
also may easily be ignored. Just bread and 
water and delightful toil is all I need, not 
unreasonably much, yet one ought to be 
trained and tempered to enjoy life in these 
brave wilds in full independence of any par- 
ticular kind of nourishment. That this may 
be accomplished is manifest, as far as bodily 

[ 103 ] 

My First Summer 

welfare is concerned, in the lives of people 
of other climes. The Eskimo, for example, 
gets a living far north of the wheat line, 
from oily seals and whales. Meat, berries, 
bitter weeds, and blubber, or only the last, 
for months at a time; and yet these people 
all around the frozen shores of our conti- 
nent are said to be hearty, jolly, stout, and 
brave. We hear, too, of fish-eaters, carniv- 
orous as spiders, yet well enough as far as 
stomachs are concerned, while we are so 
ridiculously helpless, making wry faces over 
our fare, looking sheepish in digestive dis- 
tress amid rumbling, grumbling sounds that 
might well pass for smothered baas. We 
have a large supply of sugar, and this evening 
it occurred to me that these belligerent 
stomachs might possibly, like complaining 
children, be coaxed with candy. Accord- 
ingly the frying-pan was cleansed, and a 
lot of sugar cooked in it to a sort of wax, 
but this stuff only made matters worse. 
Man seems to be the only animal whose 

[ 104 ] 

In the Sierra 

food soils him, making necessary much 
washing and shield-like bibs and napkins. 
Moles living in the earth and eating slimy 
worms are yet as clean as seals or fishes, 
whose lives are one perpetual wash. And, 
as we have seen, the squirrels in these resiny 
woods keep themselves clean in some mys- 
terious way ; not a hair is sticky, though 
they handle the gummy cones, and glide 
about apparently without care. The birds, 
too, are clean, though they seem to make a 
good deal of fuss washing and cleaning 
their feathers. Certain flies and ants I see 
are in a fix, entangled and sealed up in the 
sugar-wax we threw away, like some of 
their ancestors in amber. Our stomachs, 
like tired muscles, are sore with long squirm- 
ing. Once I was very hungry in the Bona- 
venture graveyard near Savannah, Georgia, 
having fasted for several days; then the 
empty stomach seemed to chafe in much 
the same way as now, and a somewhat 
similar tenderness and aching was produced, 

[ 105 ] 

My First Summer 

hard to bear, though the pain was not acute. 
We dream of bread, a sure sign we need it. 
Like the Indians, we ought to know how 
to get the starch out of fern and saxifrage 
stalks, lily bulbs, pine bark, etc. Our edu- 
cation has been sadly neglected for many 
generations. Wild rice would be good. I 
noticed a leersia in wet meadow edges, but 
the seeds are small. Acorns are not ripe, 
nor pine nuts, nor filberts. The inner bark 
of pine or spruce might be tried. Drank 
tea until half intoxicated. Man seems to 
crave a stimulant when anything extraor- 
dinary is going on, and this is the only one 
I use. Billy chews great quantities of to- 
bacco, which I suppose helps to stupefy and 
moderate his misery. We look and listen 
for the Don every hour. How beautiful 
upon the mountains his big feet would 

In the warm, hospitable Sierra, shepherds 
and mountain men in general, as far as I 
have seen, are easily satisfied as to food sup- 

[ 106] 

In the Sierra 

plies and bedding. Most of them are heartily 
content to "rough it," ignoring Nature's 
fineness as bothersome or unmanly. The 
shepherd's bed is often only the bare ground 
and a pair of blankets, with a stone, a piece 
of wood, or a pack-saddle for a pillow. In 
choosing the spot, he shows less care than 
the dogs, for they usually deliberate before 
making up their minds in so important an 
affair, going from place to place, scraping 
away loose sticks and pebbles, and trying 
for comfort by making many changes, 
while the shepherd casts himself down any- 
where, seemingly the least skilled of all 
rest seekers. His food, too, even when he 
has all he wants, is usually far from delicate, 
either in kind or cooking. Beans, bread of 
any sort, bacon, mutton, dried peaches, and 
sometimes potatoes and onions, make up 
his bill-of-fare, the two latter articles being 
regarded as luxuries on account of their 
weight as compared with the nourishment 
they contain; a half-sack or so of each 

[ 107 ] 

My First Summer 

may be put into the pack in setting out 
from the home ranch and in a few days they 
are done. Beans are the main standby, port- 
able, wholesome, and capable of going far, 
besides being easily cooked, although curi- 
ously enough a great deal of mystery is sup- 
posed to lie about the bean-pot. No two 
cooks quite agree on the methods of mak- 
ing beans do their best, and, after petting 
and coaxing and nursing the savory mess, 
well oiled and mellowed with bacon boiled 
into the heart of it, the proud cook will 
ask, after dishing out a quart or two for 
trial, " Well, how do you like my beans ? ' 
as if by no possibility could they be like 
any other beans cooked in the same way, 
but must needs possess some special virtue 
of which he alone is master. Molasses, 
sugar, or pepper may be used to give desired 
flavors; or the first water may be poured 
off and a spoonful or two of ashes or soda 
added to dissolve or soften the skins more 
fully, according to various tastes and notions. 

[ 108 ] 

In the Sierra 

But, like casks of wine, no two potfuls are 
exactly alike to every palate. Some are sup- 
posed to be spoiled by the moon, by some 
unlucky day, by the beans having been 
grown on soil not suitable; or the whole 
year may be to blame as not favorable for 

Coffee, too, has its marvels in the camp 
kitchen, but not so many, and not so inscru- 
table as those that beset the bean-pot. A 
low complacent grunt follows a mouthful 
drawn in with a gurgle, and the remark 
cast forth aimlessly, "That's good coffee." 
Then another gurgling sip and repetition 
of the judgment, " Tes, sir, that is good 
coffee. ' : As to tea, there are but two kinds, 
weak and strong, the stronger the better. 
The only remark heard is, " That tea 's 
weak," otherwise it is good enough and not 
worth mentioning. If it has been boiled 
an hour or two or smoked on a pitchy fire, 
no matter, who cares for a little tannin or 
creosote ? they make the black beverage all 

[ 109 ] 

My First Summer 

the stronger and more attractive to tobacco- 
tanned palates. 

Sheep-camp bread, like most California 
camp bread, is baked in Dutch ovens, some of 
it in the form of yeast powder biscuit, an un- 
wholesome sticky compound leading straight 
to dyspepsia. The greater part, however, 
is fermented with sour dough, a handful 
from each batch being saved and put away 
in the mouth of the flour sack to inoculate 
the next. The oven is simply a cast-iron 
pot, about five inches deep and from twelve 
to eighteen inches wide. After the batch 
has been mixed and kneaded in a tin pan, 
the oven is slightly heated and rubbed with 
a piece of tallow or pork rind. The dough 
is then placed in it, pressed out against the 
sides, and left to rise. When ready for bak- 
ing a shovelful of coals is spread out by 
the side of the fire and the oven set upon 
them, while another shovelful is placed on 
top of the lid, which is raised from time to 
time to see that the requisite amount of heat 

[ no ] 

/// the Sierra 

is being kept up. With care good bread 
may be made in this way, though it is liable 
to be burned or to be sour, or raised too 
much, and the weight of the oven is a se- 
rious objection. 

At last Don Delaney comes doon the 
lang glen, hunger vanishes, we turn our 
eyes to the mountains, and to-morrow we 
go climbing toward cloudland. 

Never while anything is left of me shall 
this first camp be forgotten. It has fairly 
grown into me, not merely as memory 
pictures, but as part and parcel of mind and 
body alike. The deep hopper-like hollow, 
with its majestic trees through which all 
the wonderful nights the stars poured their 
beauty. The flowery wildness of the high 
steep slope toward Brown's Flat, and its 
bloom-fragrance descending at the close of 
the still days. The embowered river-reaches 
with their multitude of voices making mel- 
ody, the stately flow and rush and glad ex- 
ulting onsweeping currents caressing the 

My First Summer 

dipping sedge-leaves and bushes and mossy 
stones, swirling in pools, dividing against 
little flowery islands, breaking gray and 
white here and there, ever rejoicing, yet 
with deep solemn undertones recalling the 
ocean, the brave little bird ever beside 
them, singing with sweet human tones 
among the waltzing foam-bells, and like a 
blessed evangel explaining God's love. And 
the Pilot Peak Ridge, its long withdrawing 
slopes gracefully modeled and braided, 
reaching from climate to climate, feathered 
with trees that are the kings of their race, 
their ranks nobly marshaled to view, spire 
above spire, crown above crown, waving 
their long, leafy arms, tossing their cones 
like ringing bells, blessed sun-fed moun- 
taineers rejoicing in their strength, every 
tree tuneful, a harp for the winds and the 
sun. The hazel and buckthorn pastures of 
the deer, the sun-beaten brows purple and 
yellow with mint and golden-rods, carpeted 
W 7 ith chamoebatia, humming with bees. 

A Mountain Stream 

In the Sierra 

And the dawns and sunrises and sundowns 
of these mountain days, the rose light 
creeping higher among the stars, changing 
to daffodil yellow, the level beams bursting 
forth, streaming across the ridges, touch- 
ing pine after pine, awakening and warm- 
ing all the mighty host to do gladly their 
shining day's work. The great sun-gold 
noons, the alabaster cloud-mountains, the 
landscape beaming with consciousness like 
the face of a god. The sunsets, when the 
trees stood hushed awaiting their good- 
night blessings. Divine, enduring, unwast- 
able wealth. 

"July 8. - -Now away we go toward the 
topmost mountains. Many still, small 
voices, as well as the noon thunder, are call- 
ing, " Come higher." Farewell, blessed 
dell, woods, gardens, streams, birds, squirrels, 
lizards, and a thousand others. Farewell. 

Up through the woods the hoofed locusts 
streamed beneath a cloud of brown dust. 

My First Summer 

Scarcely were they driven a hundred yards 
from the old corral ere they seemed to know 
that at last they were going to new pastures, 
and rushed wildly ahead, crowding through 
gaps in the brush, jumping, tumbling like 
exulting, hurrahing flood-waters escaping 
through a broken dam. A man on each flank 
kept shouting advice to the leaders, who 
in their famishing condition were behaving 
like Gadarene swine; two other drivers were 
busy with stragglers, helping them out of 
brush-tangles; the Indian, calm, alert, silently 
watched for wanderers likely to be over- 
looked; the two dogs ran here and there, 
at a loss to know what was best to be 
done, while the Don, soon far in the rear, 
was trying to keep in sight of his trouble- 
some wealth. 

As soon as the boundary of the old eaten- 
out range was passed the hungry horde sud- 
denly became calm, like a mountain stream 
in a meadow. Thenceforward they were 
allowed to eat their way as slowly as they 

In the Sierra 

wished, care being taken only to keep them 
headed toward the summit of the Merced 
and Tuolumne divide. Soon the two thou- 
sand flattened paunches were bulged out with 
sweet-pea vines and grass, and the gaunt, 
desperate creatures, more like wolves than 

; ' : , .. '<. 

,. t XV- i ,' V J 4 ? 

'K ' ' ' 



' . i- 

> -fK<- 

, ' ^ / II .i 

.. I . 




sheep, became bland and governable, while 
the howling drivers changed to gentle shep- 
herds, and sauntered in peace. 

Toward sundown we reached Hazel 
Green, a charming spot on the summit of 
the dividing ridge between the basins of the 

My First Summer 

Merced and Tuolumne, where there is a 
small brook flowing through hazel and dog- 
wood thickets beneath magnificent silver firs 
and pines. Here we are camped for the night, 
our big fire, heaped high with rosiny logs 
and branches, is blazing like a sunrise, gladly 
giving back the light slowly sifted from the 
sunbeams of centuries of summers ; and in the 
glow of that old sunlight how impressively 
surrounding objects are brought forward in 
relief against the outer darkness ! Grasses, 
larkspurs, columbines, lilies, hazel bushes, 
and the great trees form a circle around the 
fire like thoughtful spectators, gazing and 
listening with human-like enthusiasm. The 
night breeze is cool, for all day we have been 
climbing into the upper sky, the home of the 
cloud mountains we so long have admired. 
How sweet and keen the air ! Every breath 
a blessing. Here the sugar pine reaches its 
fullest development in size and beauty and 
number of individuals, filling every swell and 
hollow and down-plunging ravine almost to 

[ 116] 

In the Sierra 

the exclusion of other species. A few yel- 
low pines are still to be found as com- 
panions, and in the coolest places silver 
firs; but noble as these are, the sugar pine 
is king, and spreads long protecting arms 
above them while they rock and wave in 
sign of recognition. 

We have now reached a height of six 
thousand feet. In the forenoon we passed 
along a flat part of the dividing ridge that 
is planted with manzanita (Arctostapbylos\ 9 
some specimens the largest I have seen. I 
measured one, the bole of which is four feet 
in diameter and only eighteen inches high 
from the ground, where it dissolves into 
many wide-spreading branches forming a 
broad round head about ten or twelve feet 
high, covered with clusters of small narrow- 
throated pink bells. The leaves are pale 
green, glandular, and set on edge by a twist 
of the petiole. The branches seem naked; 
for the chocolate -colored bark is very 
smooth and thin, and is shed off in flakes 


My First Summer 

that curl when dry. The wood is red, close- 
grained, hard, and heavy. I wonder how 
old these curious tree-bushes are, probably 
as old as the great pines. Indians and bears 
and birds and fat grubs feast on the berries, 
which look like small apples, often rosy on 
one side, green on the other. The Indians 
are said to make a kind of beer or cider 
out of them. There are many species. This 
one, Arctostaphylos pungens, is common here- 
abouts. No need have they to fear the wind, 
so low they are and steadfastly rooted. Even 
the fires that sweep the woods seldom destroy 
them utterly, for they rise again from the 
root, and some of the dry ridges they grow 
on are seldom touched by fire. I must try to 
know them better. 

I miss my river songs to-night. Here 
Hazel Creek at its topmost springs has a 
voice like a bird. The wind-tones in the 
great trees overhead are strangely impres- 
sive, all the more because not a leaf stirs 
below them. But it grows late, and I must to 

[ "8 ] 

In the Sierra 

bed. The camp is silent ; everybody asleep. 
It seems extravagant to spend hours so 
precious in sleep. " He giveth his be- 
loved sleep.' Pity the poor beloved needs 
it, weak, weary, forspent; oh, the pity of 
it, to sleep in the midst of eternal, beautiful 
motion instead of gazing forever, like the 

July 9. Exhilarated with the mountain 
air, I feel like shouting this morning with 
excess of wild animal joy. The Indian lay 
down away from the fire last night, without 
blankets, having nothing on, by way of cloth- 
ing, but a pair of blue overalls and a calico 
shirt wet with sweat. The night air is chilly 
at this elevation, and we gave him some 
horse-blankets, but he did n't seem to care 
for them. A fine thing to be independent of 


clothing where it is so hard to carry. When 
food is scarce, he can live on whatever comes 
in his way, a few berries, roots, bird eggs, 
grasshoppers, black ants, fat wasp or bum- 
blebee larva?, without feeling that he is doing 

My First Summer 

anything worth mention, so I have been 

Our course to-day was along the broad 
top of the main ridge to a hollow beyond 
Crane Flat. It is scarce at all rocky, and is 
covered with the noblest pines and spruces 
I have yet seen. Sugar pines from six to 
eight feet in diameter are not uncommon, 
with a height of two hundred feet or even 
more. The silver firs (Abies concolor and A. 
magnified} are exceedingly beautiful, espe- 
cially the magnifica, which becomes more 
abundant the higher we go. It is of great 
size, one of the most notable in every way 
of the giant conifers of the Sierra. I saw 
specimens that measured seven feet in dia- 
meter and over two hundred feet in height, 
while the average size for what might be 
called full-grown mature trees can hardly be 
less than one hundred and eighty or two 
hundred feet high and five or six feet in 
diameter ; and with these noble dimensions 
there is a symmetry and perfection of finish 

[ 120 ] 

In the Sierra 

not to be seen in any other tree, hereabout 
at least. The branches are whorled in fives 
mostly, and stand out from the tall, straight, 
exquisitely tapered bole in level collars, each 
branch regularly pinnated like the fronds 
of ferns, and densely clad with leaves all 
around the branchlets, thus giving them a 
singularly rich and sumptuous appearance. 
The extreme top of the tree is a thick blunt 
shoot pointing straight to the zenith like an 
admonishing finger. The cones stand erect 
like casks on the upper branches. They are 
about six inches long, three in diameter, 
blunt, velvety, and cylindrical in form, and 
very rich and precious looking. The seeds 
are about three quarters of an inch long, 
dark reddish brown with brilliant irides- 
cent purple wings, and when ripe, the 
cone falls to pieces, and the seeds thus set 
free at a height of one hundred and fifty 
or two hundred feet have a good send off 
and may fly considerable distances in a 
good breeze ; and it is when a good breeze 

My First Summer 

is blowing that most of them are shaken 
free to fly. 

The other species, Abies concolor, attains 
nearly as great a height and thickness as the 
magnifica, but the branches do not form 
such regular whorls, nor are they so exactly 
pinnated or richly leaf-clad. Instead of 
growing all around the branchlets, the 
leaves are mostly arranged in two flat hori- 
zontal rows. The cones and seeds are like 
those of the magnified in form but less than 
half as large. The bark of the magnified is 
reddish purple and closely furrowed, that 
of the concolor gray and widely furrowed. 
A noble pair. 

At Crane Flat w r e climbed a thousand 
feet or more in a distance of about two 
miles, the forest growing more dense and 
the silvery magnifica fir forming a still 
greater portion of the w r hole. Crane Flat 
is a meadow with a wide sandy border lying 
on the top of the divide. It is often visited 
by blue cranes to rest and feed on their long 

[ 122 ] 

In the Sierra 

journeys, hence the name. It is about half 
a mile long, draining into the Merced, 
sedgy in the middle, with a margin bright 
with lilies, columbines, larkspurs, lupines, 
castilleia, then an outer zone of dry, gently 
sloping ground starred with a multitude of 
small flowers, eunanus, mimulus, gilia, 
with rosettes of spraguea,and tufts of several 
species of eriogonum and the brilliant 
zauschneria. The noble forest wall about it is 
made up of the two silver firs and the yellow 
and sugar pines, which here seem to reach 
their highest pitch of beauty and grandeur; 
for the elevation, six thousand feet or a 
little more, is not too great for the sugar 
and yellow pines or too low for the mag- 
nifica fir, while the concolor seems to find 
this elevation the best possible. About a 
mile from the north end of the flat there is 
a grove of Sequoia gigantea, the king of all 
the conifers. Furthermore, the Douglas 
spruce (PseudotsugaDouglasii)and Libocedrus 
decurrens, and a few two-leaved pines, occur 

[ 123 ] 

My First Summer 

here and there, forming a small part of the 
forest. Three pines, two silver firs, one 
Douglas spruce, one sequoia, all of them, 
except the two-leaved pine, colossal trees, - 
are found here together, an assemblage of 
conifers unrivaled on the globe. 

We passed a number of charming gar- 
den-like meadows lying on top of the 
divide or hanging like ribbons down its 
sides, imbedded in the glorious forest. Some 
are taken up chiefly with the tall white- 
flowered Veratrum Calif ornicum, with boat- 
shaped leaves about a foot long, eight or 
ten inches wide, and veined like those of 
cypripedium, a robust, hearty, liliaceous 
plant, fond of water and determined to 
be seen. Columbine and larkspur grow on 
the dryer edges of the meadows, with a tall 
handsome lupine standing waist-deep in 
long grasses and sedges. Castilleias, too, of 
several species make a bright show with 
beds of violets at their feet. But the glory 

of these forest meadows is a lily (L. par- 

[ 124 ] 

In the Sierra 

vum). The tallest are from seven to eight 
feet high with magnificent racemes of ten 
to twenty or more small orange-colored 
flowers; they stand out free in open ground, 
with just enough grass and other compan- 
ion plants about them to fringe their feet, 
and show them off to best advantage. This 
is a grand addition to my lily acquaintances, 
a true mountaineer, reaching prime vigor 
and beauty at a height of seven thousand 
feet or thereabouts. It varies, I find, very 
much in size even in the same meadow, not 
only with the soil, but with age. I saw a 
specimen that had only one flower, and an- 
other within a stone's throw had twenty- 
five. And to think that the sheep should be 
allowed in these lily meadows ! after how 
many centuries of Nature's care planting 
and watering them, tucking the bulbs in 
snugly below winter frost, shading the ten- 
der shoots with clouds drawn above them 
like curtains, pouring refreshing rain, mak- 
ing them perfect in beauty, and keeping 

[ 125 ] 

My First Summer 

them safe by a thousand miracles; yet, 
strange to say, allowing the trampling of 
devastating sheep. One might reasonably 
look for a wall of fire to fence such gardens. 
So extravagant is Nature with her choicest 
treasures, spending plant beauty as she 
spends sunshine, pouring it forth into land 
and sea, garden and desert. And so the 
beauty of lilies falls on angels and men, 
bears and squirrels, wolves and sheep, birds 
and bees, but as far as I have seen, man alone, 
and the animals he tames, destroy these 
gardens. Awkward, lumbering bears, the 
Don tells me, love to wallow in them in hot 
weather, and deer with their sharp feet cross 
them again and again, sauntering and feed- 
ing, yet never a lily have I seen spoiled by 
them. Rather, like gardeners, they seem to 
cultivate them, pressing and dibbling as re- 
quired. Anyhow not a leaf or petal seems 

The trees round about them seem as per- 
fect in beauty and form as the lilies, their 

[ 126] 

In the Sierra 

boughs whorled like lily leaves in exact 
order. This evening, as usual, the glow of 
our camp-fire is working enchantment on 
everything within reach of its rays. Lying 
beneath the firs, it is glorious to see them 
dipping their spires in the starry sky, the sky 
like one vast lily meadow in bloom ! How 
can I close my eyes on so precious a night ? 
July 10. A Douglas squirrel, peppery, 
pungent autocrat of the woods, is barking 
overhead this morning, and the small forest 
birds, so seldom seen when one travels nois- 
ily, are out on sunny branches along the 
edge of the meadow getting warm, taking 
a sun bath and dew bath a fine sight. How 
charming the sprightly confident looks and 
ways of these little feathered people of the 
trees! They seem sure of dainty, wholesome 
breakfasts, and where are so many break- 
fasts to come from ? How helpless should w r e 
find ourselves should we try to set a table 
for them of such buds, seeds, insects, etc., 
as would keep them in the pure wild health 

[ 127 ] 

My First Summer 

they enjoy ! Not a headache or any other 
ache amongst them, I guess. As for the 
irrepressible Douglas squirrels, one never 
thinks of their breakfasts or the possibility 
of hunger, sickness, or death ; rather they 
seem like stars above chance or change, 
even though we may see them at times busy 
gathering burrs, working hard for a living. 
On through the forest ever higher we 
go, a cloud of dust dimming the w r ay, thou- 
sands of feet, trampling leaves and flowers, 
but in this mighty wilderness they seem but 
a feeble band, and a thousand gardens will 
escape their blighting touch. They cannot 
hurt the trees, though some of the seedlings 
suffer, and should the woolly locusts be 
greatly multiplied, as on account of dollar 
value they are likely to be, then the forests, 
too, may in time be destroyed. Only the sky 
will then be safe, though hid from view by 
dust and smoke, incense of a bad sacrifice. 
Poor, helpless, hungry sheep, in great part 
misbegotten, without good right to be, semi- 

[ 128 ] 

In the Sierra 

manufactured, made less by God than man, 
born out of time and place, yet their voices 
are strangely human and call out one's pity. 

Our way is still along the Merced and 
Tuolumne divide, the streams on our right 
going to swell the songful Yosemite River, 
those on our left to the songful Tuolumne, 
slipping through sunny carex and lily 
meadows, and breaking into song down a 
thousand ravines almost as soon as they are 
born. A more tuneful set of streams surely 
nowhere exists, or more sparkling crystal 
pure, now gliding with tinkling whisper, 
now with merry dimpling rush, in and out 
through sunshine and shade, shimmering 
in pools, uniting their currents, bouncing, 
dancing from form to form over cliffs and 
inclines, ever more beautiful the farther 
they go until they pour into the main gla- 
cial rivers. 

All day I have been gazing in growing 
admiration at the noble groups of the mag- 
nificent silver fir which more and more is 

[ 129 ] 

My First Summer 

taking the ground to itself. The woods above 
Crane Flat still continue comparatively 
open, letting in the sunshine on the brown 
needle-strewn ground. Not only are the in- 
dividual trees admirable in symmetry and 
superb in foliage and port, but half a dozen 
or more often form temple groves in which 
the trees are so nicely graded in size and 
position as to seem one. Here, indeed, is the 
tree-lover's paradise. The dullest eye in the 
world must surely be quickened by such 
trees as these. 

Fortunately the sheep need little atten- 
tion, as they are driven slowly and allowed 
to nip and nibble as they like. Since leaving 
Hazel Green we have been following the 
Yosemite trail ; visitors to the famous valley 
coming by way of Coulterville and Chinese 
Camp pass this way- - the two trails uniting 
at Crane Flat - - and enter the valley on the 
north side. Another trail enters on the south 
side by way of Mariposa. The tourists we 
saw were in parties of from three or four to 

[ 130 ] 

In the Sierra 

fifteen or twenty, mounted on mules or small 
mustang ponies. A strange show they made, 
winding single rile through the solemn woods 
in gaudy attire, scaring the wild creatures, 
and one might fancy that even the great 
pines would be disturbed and groan aghast. 
But what may we say of ourselves and the 
flock ? 

We are now camped at Tamarack Flat, 
within four or five miles of the lower end 
of Yosemite. Here is another fine meadow 
embosomed in the woods, with a deep, clear 
stream gliding through it, its banks rounded 
and beveled with a thatch of dipping sedges. 
The flat is named after the two-leaved pine 
(Pinus contort a, var. Murray ana], common 
here, especially around the cool margin of 
the meadow. On rocky ground it is a rough, 
thickset tree, about forty to sixty feet high 
and one to three feet in diameter, bark thin 
and gummy, branches rather naked, tassels, 
leaves, and cones small. But in damp, rich 
soil it grows close and slender, and reaches 

My First Summer 

a height at times of nearly a hundred feet. 
Specimens only six inches in diameter. at the 
ground are often fifty or sixty feet in height, 
as slender and sharp in outline as arrows, like 
the true tamarack (larch) of the Eastern 
States ; hence the name, though it is a 

July 1 1 . - The Don has gone ahead on 
one of the pack animals to spy out the land 
to the north of Yosemite in search of the 
best point for a central camp. Much higher 
than this we cannot now go, for the upper 
pastures, said to be better than any here- 
abouts, are still buried in heavy winter 
snow. Glad I am that camp is to be fixed 
in the Yosemite region, for many a glorious 
ramble I '11 have along the top of the walls, 
and then what landscapes I shall find with 
their new mountains and canons, forests 
and gardens, lakes and streams and falls, 

We are now about seven thousand feet 
above the sea, and the nights are so cool we 
have to pile coats and extra clothing on top 

[ 132 ] 

In the Sierra 

of our blankets. Tamarack Creek is icy cold, 
delicious, exhilarating champagne water. It 
is flowing bank full in the meadow with 
silent speed, but only a few hundred yards 
below our camp the ground is bare gray 
granite strewn with boulders, large spaces 
being without a single tree or only a small 
one here and there anchored in narrow 
seams and cracks. The boulders, many of 
them very large, are not in piles or scattered 
like rubbish among loose crumbling debris 
as if weathered out of the solid as boulders 
of disintegration; they mostly occur sin- 
gly, and are lying on a clean pavement on 
which the sunshine falls in a glare that con- 
trasts with the shimmer of light and shade 
we have been accustomed to in the leafy 
woods. And, strange to say, these boulders 
lying so still and deserted, with no moving 
force near them, no boulder carrier any- 
where in sight, were nevertheless brought 
from a distance, as difference in color and 
composition shows, quarried and carried and 

My First Summer 

laid down here each in its place ; nor have 
they stirred, most of them, through calm 
and storm since first they arrived. They 
look lonely here, strangers in a strange land, 
huge blocks, angular mountain chips, 
the largest twenty or thirty feet in diameter, 
the chips that Nature has made in model- 
ing her landscapes, fashioning the forms of 
her mountains and valleys. And with what 
tool were they quarried and carried? On 
the pavement we find its marks. The most 
resisting unweathered portion of the sur- 
face is scored and striated in a rigidly par- 
allel way, indicating that the region has 
been overswept by a glacier from the north- 
eastward, grinding down the general mass 
of the mountains, scoring and polishing, 
producing a strange, raw, wiped appearance, 
and dropping whatever boulders it chanced 
to be carrying at the time it was melted at 
the close of the Glacial Period. A fine dis- 
covery this. As for the forests we have 
been passing through, they are probably 

[ 134 ] 

A Glacial Boulder 


In the Sierra 

growing on deposits of soil most of which 
has been laid down by this same ice agent 
in the form of moraines of different sorts, 
now in great part disintegrated and out- 
spread by post-glacial weathering. 

Out of the grassy meadow and down 
over this ice-planed granite runs the glad 
young Tamarack Creek, rejoicing, exulting, 
chanting, dancing in white, glowing, irised 
falls and cascades oh its way to the Merced 
Canon, a few miles below Yosemite, fall- 
ing more than three thousand feet in a dis- 
tance of about two miles. 

All the Merced streams are wonderful 
singers, and Yosemite is the centre where 
the main tributaries meet. From a point 
about half a mile from our camp we can 
see into the lower end of the famous valley, 
with its wonderful cliffs and groves, a grand 
page of mountain manuscript that I would 
gladly give my life to be able to read. How 
vast it seems, how short human life when 
we happen to think of it, and how little we 


My First Summer 

may learn, however hard we try ! Yet why 
bewail our poor inevitable ignorance? Some 
of the external beauty is always in sight, 
enough to keep every fibre of us tingling, 
and this we are able to gloriously enjoy 
though the methods of its creation may lie 
beyond our ken. Sing on, brave Tamarack 
Creek, fresh from your snowy fountains, 
plash and swirl and dance to your fate in 
the sea; bathing, cheering every living thing 
along your way. 

Have greatly enjoyed all this huge day, 
sauntering and seeing, steeping in the moun- 
tain influences, sketching, noting, pressing 
flowers, drinking ozone andTamarack water. 
Found the white fragrant Washington lily, 
the finest of all the Sierra lilies. Its bulbs 
are buried in shaggy chaparral tangles, I sup- 
pose for safety from pawing bears; and its 
magnificent panicles sway and rock over the 
top of the rough snow-pressed bushes, while 
big, bold,blunt-nosedbeesdrone and mumble 
in its polleny bells. A lovely flower, worth 

[ 136 ] 

In the Sierra 

going hungry and footsore endless miles to 
see. The whole world seems richer now 
that I have found this plant in so noble a 

A log house serves to mark a claim to 
the Tamarack meadow, which may become 
valuable as a station in case travel to Yo- 
semite should greatly increase. Belated par- 
ties occasionally stop here. A white man 
with an Indian woman is holding possession 
of the place. 

Sauntered up the meadow aboutsundown, 
out of sight of camp and sheep and all 
human mark, into the deep peace of the 
solemn old woods, everything glowing with 
Heaven's unquenchable enthusiasm. 

July 12. The Don has returned, and 
again we go on pilgrimage. " Looking over 
the Yosemite Creek country,' 3 he said, 
" from the tops of the hills you see nothing 
but rocks and patches of trees ; but when 
you go down into the rocky desert you find 
no end of small grassy banks and meadows, 

My First Summer 

and so the country is not half so lean as it 
looks. There we '11 go and stay until the 
snow is melted from the upper country." 

I was glad to hear that the high snow 
made a stay in the Yosemite region neces- 
sary, for I am anxious to see as much of 
it as possible. What fine times I shall have 
sketching, studying plants and rocks, and 
scrambling about the brink of the great 
valley alone, out of sight and sound of 
camp ! 

We saw another party of Yosemite tour- 
ists to-day. Somehow most of these travelers 
seem to care but little for the glorious 
objects about them, though enough to spend 
time and money and endure long rides to 
see the famous valley. And when they are 
fairly within the mighty walls of the tem- 
ple and hear the psalms of the falls, they 
will forget themselves and become devout. 
Blessed, indeed, should be every pilgrim in 
these holy mountains! 

We moved slowly eastward along the 

[ 138 ] 

In the Sierra 

Mono Trail, and early in the afternoon 
unpacked and camped on the bank of Cas- 
cade Creek. The Mono Trail crosses the 
range by the Bloody Canon Pass to gold 
mines near the north end of Mono Lake. 
These mines were reported to be rich when 
first discovered, and a grand rush took place, 
making a trail necessary. A few small bridges 
were built over streams where fording was 
not practicable on account of the softness 
of the bottom, sections of fallen trees cut 
out, and lanes made through thickets wide 
enough to allow the passage of bulky packs; 
but over the greater part of the way scarce 
a stone or shovelful of earth has been 

The woods we passed through are com- 
posed almost wholly of Abies magnifica, the 
companion species, conco/or, being mostly left 
behind on account of altitude, while the in- 
creasing elevation seems grateful to the 
charming magnified. No words can do any- 
thing like justice to this noble tree. At one 

My First Summer 

place many had fallen during some heavy 
wind-storm, owing to the loose sandy char- 
acter of the soil, which offered no secure an- 
chorage. The soil is mostly decomposed and 
disintegrated moraine material. 

The sheep are lying down on a bare 
rocky spot such as they like, chewing the 
cud in grassy peace. Cooking is going on, 
appetites growing keener every day. No 
lowlander can appreciate the mountain ap- 
petite, and the facility with which heavy 
food called " grub ' is disposed of. Eating, 
walking, resting, seem alike delightful, and 
one feels inclined to shout lustily on rising 
in the morning like a crowing cock. Sleep 
and digestion as clear as the air. Fine spicy 
plush boughs for bedding we shall have to- 
night, and a glorious lullaby from this cas- 
cading creek. Never was stream more fit- 
tingly named, for as far as I have traced it 
above and below our camp it is one contin- 
uous bouncing, dancing, white bloom of cas- 
cades. And at the very last unwearied it 

In the Sierra 

finishes its wild course in a grand leap of 
three hundred feet or more to the bottom 
of the main Yosemite canon near the fall 
of Tamarack Creek, a few miles below 
the foot of the valley. These falls almost 
rival some of the far-famed Yosemite falls. 
Never shall I forget these glad cascade songs, 
the low booming, the roaring, the keen, sil- 
very clashing of the cool water rushing exult- 
ing from form to form beneath irised spray ; 
or in the deep still night seen white in the 
darkness, and its multitude of voices sound- 
ing still more impressively sublime. Here 
I find the little water ouzel as much at home 
as any linnet in a leafy grove, seeming to 
take the greater delight the more boisterous 
the stream. The dizzy precipices, the swift 
dashing energy displayed, and the thunder 
tones of the sheer falls are awe inspiring, but 
there is nothing awful about this little bird. 
Its song is sweet and low, and all its gestures, 
as it flits about amid the loud uproar, bespeak 
strength and peace and joy. Contemplating 

My First Summer 

these darlings of Nature coming forth from 
spray-sprinkled nests on the brink of savage 
streams, Samson's riddle comes to mind, 
"Out of the strong cometh forth sweetness/ 1 
A yet finer bloom is this little bird than 
the foam-bells in eddying pools. Gentle 
bird, a precious message you bring me. 
We may miss the meaning of the torrent, 
but thy sweet voice, only love is in it. 

July 13. Our course all day has been 
eastward over the rim of Yosemite Creek 
basin and down about halfway to the bot- 
tom, where we have encamped on a sheet 
of glacier-polished granite, a firm founda- 
tion for beds. Saw the tracks of a very large 
bear on the trail, and the Don talked of 
bears in general. I said I should like to see 
the maker of these immense tracks as he 
marched along, and follow him for days, 
without disturbing him, to learn something 
of the life of this master beast of the wil- 
derness. Lambs, the Don told me, born in 
the lowland, that never saw or heard a bear, 

[ 142 ] 

In the Sierra 

snort and run in terror when they catch the 
scent, showing how fully they have inher- 
ited a knowledge of their enemy. Hogs, 
mules, horses, and cattle are afraid of bears, 
and are seized with ungovernable terror 
when they approach, particularly hogs and 
mules. Hogs are frequently driven to pas- 
tures in the foothills of the Coast Range 
and Sierra where acorns are abundant, and 
are herded in droves of hundreds like sheep. 
When a bear comes to the range they 
promptly leave it, emigrating in a body, 
usually in the night time, the keepers being 
powerless to prevent ; they thus show more 
sense than sheep, that simply scatter in the 
rocks and brush and await their fate. Mules 
flee like the wind with or without riders 
when they see a bear, and, if picketed, some- 
times break their necks in trying to break 
their ropes, though I have not heard of 
bears killing mules or horses. Of hogs they 
are said to be particularly fond, bolting 
small ones, bones and all, without choice of 

[ 143 ] 

My First Summer 

parts. In particular, Mr. Delaney assured 
me that all kinds of bears in the Sierra are 
very shy, and that hunters found far greater 
difficulty in getting within gunshot of them 
than of deer or indeed any other animal in 
the Sierra, and if I was anxious to see much 
of them I should have to wait and watch 
with endless Indian patience and pay no at- 
tention to anything else. 

Night is coming on, the gray rock waves 
are growing dim in the twilight. How raw 
and young this region appears ! Had the ice 
sheet that swept over it vanished but yester- 
day, its traces on the more resisting portions 
about our camp could hardly be more dis- 
tinct than they now are. The horses and 
sheep and all of us, indeed, slipped on the 
smoothest places. 

July 1 4. - - How deathlike is sleep in this 
mountain air, and quick the awakening into 
newness of life ! A calm dawn, yellow and 
purple, then floods of sun-gold, making 
everything tingle and glow. 

In the Sierra 

In an hour or two we came to Yosemite 
Creek, the stream that makes the greatest 
of all the Yosemite falls. It is about forty 
feet wide at the Mono Trail crossing, and 
now about four feet in average depth, flow- 
ing about three miles an hour. The distance 
to the verge of the Yosemite wall, where it 
makes its tremendous plunge, is only about 
two miles from here. Calm, beautiful, and 
nearly silent, it glides with stately gestures, 
a dense growth of the slender two-leaved 
pine along its banks, and a fringe of willow, 
purple spirea, sedges, daisies, lilies, and col- 
umbines. Some of the sedges and willow 
boughs dip into the current, and just out- 
side of the close ranks of trees there is a 
sunny flat of washed gravelly sand which 
seems to have been deposited by some an- 
cient flood. It is covered with millions 
of erethrea, eriogonum, and oxytheca, with 
more flowers than leaves, forming an even 
growth, slightly dimpled and ruffled here 
and there by rosettes of Spraguea umbellata. 

My First Summer 

Back of this flowery strip there is a wavy up- 
sloping plain of solid granite, so smoothly 
ice-polished in many places that it glistens in 
the sun like glass. In shallow hollows there 
are patches of trees, mostly the rough form 
of the two-leaved pine, rather scrawny look- 
ing where there is little or no soil. Also a 
few junipers (Juniperus occi Jen f a/is) 9 short 
and stout, with bright cinnamon-colored 
bark and gray foliage, standing alone mostly, 
on the sun-beaten pavement, safe from fire, 
clinging by slight joints, a sturdy storm- 
enduring mountaineer of a tree, living 
on sunshine and snow, maintaining tough 
health on this diet for perhaps more than 
a thousand years. 

Up towards the head of the basin I see 
groups of domes rising above the wave- 
like ridges, and some picturesque castellated 
masses, and dark strips and patches of silver fir, 
indicating deposits of fertile soil. Would that 
I could command the time to study them ! 
What rich excursions one could make in 

[ 146 ] 

In the Sierra 

this well-defined basin ! Its glacial inscrip- 
tions and sculptures, how marvelous they 
seem, how noble the studies they offer! I 
tremble with excitement in the dawn of 
these glorious mountain sublimities, but I 
can only gaze and wonder, and, like a child, 
gather here and there a lily, half hoping I 
may be able to study and learn in years to 

The drivers and dogs had a lively, labori T 
ous time getting the sheep across the creek, 
the second large stream thus far that they 
have been compelled to cross without a 
bridge; the first being the North Fork of 
the Merced near Bower Cave. Men and dogs, 
shouting and barking, drove the timid, water- 
fearing creatures in a close crowd against 
the bank, but not one of the flock would 
launch away. While thus jammed, the Don 
and the shepherd rushed through the fright- 
ened crowd to stampede those in front, but 
this would only cause a break backward, 
and away they would scamper through the 

My First Summer 

stream-bank trees and scatter over the rocky 
pavement. Then with the aid of the dogs 
the runaways would again be gathered and 
made to face the stream, and again the com- 
pacted mass would break away, amid wild 
shouting and barking that might well have 
disturbed the stream itself and marred the 
music of its falls, to which visitors no doubt 
from all quarters of the globe were listen- 
ing. "Hold them there! Now hold them 
there ! ' shouted the Don ; "the front ranks 
will soon tire of the pressure, and be glad 
to take to the water, then all will jump in 
and cross in a hurry. >: But they did nothing 
of the kind ; they only avoided the pressure 
by breaking back in scores and hundreds, 
leaving the beauty of the banks sadly 

If only one could be got to cross over, all 
would make haste to follow; but that one 
could not be found. A lamb was caught, 
carried across, and tied to a bush on the 
opposite bank, where it cried piteously for 

[ 148 ] 

In the Sierra 

its mother. But though greatly concerned, 
the mother only called it back. That play 
on maternal affection failed, and we began 
to fear that we should be forced to make a 
long roundabout drive and cross the wide- 
spread tributaries of the creek in succession. 
This would require several days, but it had 
its advantages, for I was eager to see the 
sources of so famous a stream. Don Quix- 
ote, however, determined that they must ford 
just here, and immediately began a sort of 
siege by cutting down slender pines on the 
bank and building a corral barely large 
enough to hold the flock when well pressed 
together. And as the stream would form 
one side of the corral he believed that they 
could easily be forced into the water. 

In a few hours the inclosure was com- 
pleted, and the silly animals were driven in 
and rammed hard against the brink of the 
ford. Then the Don, forcing a way through 
the compacted mass, pitched a few of the 
terrified unfortunates into the stream by 

[ H9 ] 

My First Summer 

main strength ; but instead of crossing over, 
they swam about close to the bank, mak- 
ing desperate attempts to get back into the 
flock. Then a dozen or more were shoved 
off, and the Don, tall like a crane and a 
good natural wader, jumped in after them, 
seized a struggling wether, and dragged it 
to the opposite shore. But no sooner did he 
let it go than it jumped into the stream and 
swam back to its frightened companions in 
the corral, thus manifesting sheep-nature as 
unchangeable as gravitation. Pan with his 
pipes would have had no better luck, I fear. 
We were now pretty well baffled. The silly 
creatures would suffer any sort of death 
rather than cross that stream. Calling a 
council, the dripping Don declared that 
starvation was now the only likely scheme 
to try, and that we might as well camp here 
in comfort and let the besieged flock grow 
hungry and cool, and come to their senses, 
if they had any. In a few minutes after 
being thus let alone, an adventurer in the 

[ 150 ] 

In the Sierra 

foremost rank plunged in and swam bravely 
to the farther shore. Then suddenly all 
rushed in pell-mell together, trampling one 
another under water, while we vainly tried 
to hold them back. The Don jumped into 
the thickest of the gasping, gurgling, drown- 
ing mass, and shoved them right and left as 
if each sheep was a piece of floating timber. 
The current also served to drift them 
apart ; a long bent column was soon formed, 
and in a few minutes all were over and 
began baaing and feeding as if nothing out 
of the common had happened. That none 
were drowned seems wonderful. I fully ex- 
pected that hundreds would gain the roman- 
tic fate of being swept into Yosemite over 
the highest waterfall in the world. 

As the day was far spent, we camped a 
little way back from the ford, and let the 
dripping flock scatter and feed until sun- 
down. The wool is dry now, and calm, cud- 
chewing peace has fallen on all the comfort- 
able band, leaving no trace of the watery 

My Firsf Summer 

battle. I have seen fish driven out of the 
water with less ado than was made in driving 
these animals into it. Sheep brain must surely 
be poor stuff". Compare to-day's exhibition 
with the performances of deer swimming 
quietly across broad and rapid rivers, and 
from island to island in seas and lakes; or 
with dogs, or even with the squirrels that, 
as the story goes, cross the Mississippi River 
on selected chips, with tails for sails com- 
fortably trimmed to the breeze. A sheep 
can hardly be called an animal; an entire 
flock is required to make one foolish indi- 

"July 15. Followed the Mono Trail up 
the eastern rim of the basin nearly to its sum- 
mit, then turned off* southward to a small 
shallow valley that extends to the edge of 
the Yosemite, which we reached about noon, 
and encamped. After luncheon I made haste 
to high ground, and from the top of the ridge 
on the w^est side of Indian Canon gained 
the noblest view of the summit peaks I have 

[ 152 ] 

In the Sierra 

ever yet enjoyed. Nearly all the upper basin 
of the Merced was displayed, with its sublime 
domes and canons, dark upsweeping forests, 
and glorious array of white peaks deep in the 
sky, every feature glowing, radiating beauty 
that pours into our flesh and bones like heat 
rays from fire. Sunshine over all; no breath 
of wind to stir the brooding calm. Never 
before had I seen so glorious a landscape, so 
boundless an affluence of sublime mountain 
beauty. The most extravagant description 
I might give of this view to any one who has 
not seen similar landscapes with his own 
eyes would not so much as hint its grandeur 
and the spiritual glow that covered it. I 
shouted and gesticulated in a wild burst of 
ecstasy, much to the astonishment of St. 
Bernard Carlo, who came running up to me, 
manifesting in his intelligent eyes a puzzled 
concern that was very ludicrous, which had 
the effect of bringing me to my senses. A 
brown bear, too, it would seem, had been a 
spectator of the show I had made of myself, 

My First Summer 

for I had gone but a few yards when I started 
one from a thicket of brush. He evidently 
considered me dangerous, for he ran away very 
fast, tumbling over the tops of the tangled 
manzanita bushes in his haste. Carlo drew 
back, with his ears depressed as if afraid, 
and kept looking me in the face, as if ex- 
pecting me to pursue and shoot, for he had 
seen many a bear battle in his day. 

Following the ridge which made a grad- 
ual descent to the south, I came at length to 
the brow of that massive cliff that stands be- 
tween Indian Canon and Yosemite Falls, and 
here the far-famed valley came suddenly into 
view throughout almost its whole extent. 
The noble walls sculptured into endless 
variety of domes and gables, spires and bat- 
tlements and plain mural precipices all 
a-tremble with the thunder tones of the fall- 
ing water. The level bottom seemed to be 
dressed like a garden, sunny meadows here 
and there, and groves of pine and oak ; the 
river of Mercy sweeping in majesty through 

In the Sierra 

the midst of them and flashing back the sun- 
beams. The great Tissiack, or Half-Dome, 
rising at the upper end of the valley to a 
height of nearly a mile, is nobly proportioned 
and life-like, the most impressive of all the 
rocks, holding the eye in devout admiration, 
calling it back again and again from falls 
or meadows, or even the mountains beyond, 
marvelous cliffs, marvelous in sheer dizzy 
depth and sculpture, types of endurance. 
Thousands of years have they stood in the 
sky exposed to rain, snow, frost, earthquake 
and avalanche, yet they still wear the bloom 
of youth. 

I rambled along the valley rim to the 
westward; most of it is rounded off on the 
very brink, so that it is not easy to find places 
where one may look clear down the face of 
the wall to the bottom. When such places 
were found, and I had cautiously set my feet 
and drawn my body erect, I could not help 
fearing a little that the rock might split off 
and let me down, and what a down! 

My First Summer 

more than three thousand feet. Still my 
limbs did not tremble, nor did I feel the least 
uncertainty as to the reliance to be placed 
on them. My only fear was that a flake of 
the granite, which in some places showed 
joints more or less open and running parallel 
with the face of the cliff, might give way. 
After withdrawing from such places, excited 
with the view I had got, I would say to 
myself, " Now don't go out on the verge 
again." But in the face of Yosemite scenery 
cautious remonstrance is vain ; under its spell 
one's body seems to go w r here it likes with a 
will over which we seem to have scarce any 

After a mile or so of this memorable 
cliff work I approached Yosemite Creek, 
admiring its easy, graceful, confident ges- 
tures as it comes bravely forward in its nar- 
row channel, singing the last of its mountain 
songs on its way to its fate a few rods 
more over the shining granite, then down 
half a mile in snowy foam to another world, 


In the Sierra 

to be lost in the Merced, where climate, 
vegetation, inhabitants, all are different. 
Emerging from its last gorge, it glides in 
wide lace-like rapids down a smooth incline 
into a pool where it seems to rest and com- 
pose its gray, agitated waters before taking 
the grand plunge, then slowly slipping over 
the lip of the pool basin, it descends another 
glossy slope with rapidly accelerated speed 
to the brink of the tremendous cliff, and 
with sublime, fateful confidence springs out 
free in the air. 

I took off my shoes and stockings and 
worked my way cautiously down alongside 
the rushing flood, keeping my feet and 
hands pressed firmly on the polished rock. 
The booming, roaring water, rushing past 
close to my head, was very exciting. I had 
expected that the sloping apron would ter- 
minate with the perpendicular wall of the 
valley, and that from the foot of it, where 
it is less steeply inclined, I should be able to 
lean far enough out to see the forms and 

My First Summer 

behavior of the fall all the way down to the 
bottom. But I found that there was yet an- 
other small brow over which I could not 
see, and which appeared to be too steep for 
mortal feet. Scanning it keenly, I discovered 
a narrow shelf about three inches wide on 
the very brink, just wide enough for a rest 
for one's heels. But there seemed to be no 
way of reaching it over so steep a brow. At 
length, after careful scrutiny of the surface, 
I found an irregular edge of a flake of the 
rock some distance back from the margin 
of the torrent. If I was to get down to the 
brink at all that rough edge, which might 
offer slight finger holds, was the only way. 
But the slope beside it looked dangerously 
smooth and steep, and the swift roaring flood 
beneath, overhead, and beside me was very 
nerve-trying. I therefore concluded not to 
venture farther, but did nevertheless. Tufts 
of artemisia were growing in clefts of the 
rock near by, and I filled my mouth with 
the bitter leaves, hoping they might help to 

[ 158 ] 

In the Sierra 

prevent giddiness. Then, with a caution not 
known in ordinary circumstances, I crept 
down safely to the little ledge, got my heels 
well planted on it, then shuffled in a hori- 
zontal direction twenty or thirty feet until 
close to the outplunging current, which, by 
the time it had descended thus far, was al- 
ready white. Here I obtained a perfectly 
free view down into the heart of the snowy, 
chanting throng of comet-like streamers, 
into which the body of the fall soon sepa- 

While perched on that narrow niche I 
was not distinctly conscious of danger. The 
tremendous grandeur of the fall in form 
and sound and motion, acting at close range, 
smothered the sense of fear, and in such 
places one's body takes keen care for safety 
on its own account. How long I remained 
down there, or how I returned, I can hardly 
tell. Anyhow I had a glorious time, and got 
back to camp about dark, enjoying trium- 
phant exhilaration soon followed by dull 

My First Summer 

weariness. Hereafter I '11 try to keep from 
such extravagant, nerve-straining places. 
Yet such a day is well worth venturing 
for. My first view of the High Sierra, first 
view looking down into Yosemite, the death 
song of Yosemite Creek, and its flight over 
the vast cliff", each one of these is of itself 
enough for a great life-long landscape for- 
tune a most memorable day of days 
enjoyment enough to kill if that were pos- 

July 1 6. My enjoyments yesterday af- 
ternoon, especially at the head of the fall, 
were too great for good sleep. Kept start- 
ing up last night in a nervous tremor, half 
awake, fancying that the foundation of the 
mountain we were camped on had given 
way and was falling into Yosemite Valley. 
In vain I roused myself to make a new be- 
ginning for sound sleep. The nerve strain 
had been too great, and again and again I 
dreamed I was rushing through the air above 

a glorious avalanche of water and rocks. One 

[ 160] 

In the Sierra 

time, springing to my feet, I said, " This 
time it is real all must die, and where 
could mountaineer find a more glorious 
death ! " 

Left camp soon after sunrise for an all- 
day ramble eastward. Crossed the head of 
Indian Basin, forested with Abies magnified, 
underbrush mostly Ceanotbus cordulatus and 
manzanita, a mixture not easily trampled 
over or penetrated, for the ceanothus is 
thorny and grows in dense snow-pressed 
masses, and the manzanita has exceedingly 
crooked, stubborn branches. From the head 
of the canon continued on past North 
Dome into the basin of Dome or Porcu- 
pine Creek. Here are many fine meadows 
imbedded in the woods, gay with Lilium 
parvum and its companions ; the elevation, 
about eight thousand feet, seems to be best 
suited for it saw specimens that were a 
foot or two higher than my head. Had 
more magnificent views of the upper moun- 
tains, and of the great South Dome, said to 

[ 161 ] 

My First Summer 

be the grandest rock in the world. Well 
it may be, since it is of such noble dimen- 
sions and sculpture. A wonderfully impres- 
sive monument, its lines exquisite in fine- 
ness, and though sublime in size, is finished 
like the finest work of art, and seems to be 

July 17.- -A new camp was made to- 
day in a magnificent silver fir grove at the 
head of a small stream that flows into Yose- 
mite by way of Indian Canon. Here we in- 
tend to stay several weeks,- - a fine location 
from which to make excursions about the 
great valley and its fountains. Glorious days 
I '11 have sketching, pressing plants, study- 
ing the wonderful topography, and the wild 
animals, our happy fellow mortals and 
neighbors. But the vast mountains in the 
distance, shall I ever know them, shall I be 
allowed to enter into their midst and dwell 
with them? 

We were pelted about noon by a short, 
heavy rain-storm, sublime thunder rever- 

[ 162 ] 

In the Sierra 

berating among the mountains and canons, 
some strokes near, crashing, ringing in 
the tense crisp air with startling keenness, 
while the distant peaks loomed gloriously 
through the cloud fringes and sheets of rain. 
Now the storm is past, and the fresh washed 
air is full of the essences of the flower gardens 
and groves. Winter storms in Yosemite 
must be glorious. May I see them ! 

Have got my bed made in our new 
camp, plushy, sumptuous, and deliciously 
fragrant, most of it magnified fir plumes, of 
course, with a variety of sweet flowers in the 
pillow. Hope to sleep to-night without 
tottering nerve-dreams. Watched a deer 
eating ceanothus leaves and twigs. 

July i 8. Slept pretty well ; the valley 
walls did not seem to fall, though I still 
fancied myself at the brink, alongside the 
white, plunging flood, especially when half 
asleep. Strange the danger of that adven- 
ture should be more troublesome now that 
I am in the bosom of the peaceful woods, 

[ 163 1 

My First Summer 

a mile or more from the fall, than it was 
while I was on the brink of it. 

Bears seem to be common here, judging 
by their tracks. About noon we had another 
rain-storm with keen startling thunder, the 
metallic, ringing, clashing, clanging notes 
gradually fading into low bass rolling and 
muttering in the distance. For a few min- 
utes the rain came in a grand torrent like a 
waterfall, then hail ; some of the hailstones 
an inch in diameter, hard, icy, and irregular 
in form, like those oftentimes seen in Wis- 
consin. Carlo watched them with intelli- 
gent astonishment as they came pelting and 
thrashing through the quivering branches 
of the trees. The cloud scenery sublime. 
Afternoon calm, sunful, and clear, with de- 
licious freshness and fragrance from the firs 
and flowers and steaming ground. 

'July 19. Watching the daybreak and 
sunrise. The pale rose and purple sky 
changing softly to daffodil yellow and white, 
sunbeams pouring through the passes be- 

[ '64 ] 

In the Sierra 

tween the peaks and over the Yosemite 
domes, making their edges burn ; the silver 
firs in the middle ground catching the glow 
on their spiry tops, and our camp grove 
fills and thrills with the glorious light. 
Everything awakening alert and joyful ; 
the birds begin to stir and innumerable in- 
sect people. Deer quietly withdraw into 
leafy hiding-places in the chaparral; the 
dew vanishes, flowers spread their petals, 
every pulse beats high, every life cell re- 
joices, the very rocks seem to thrill with 
life. The whole landscape glows like a 
human face in a glory of enthusiasm, and 
the blue sky, pale around the horizon, 
bends peacefully down over all like one vast 

About noon, as usual, big bossy cumuli 
began to grow above the forest, and the rain- 
storm pouring from them is the most im- 
posing I have yet seen. The silvery zigzag 
lightning lances are longer than usual, and 
the thunder gloriously impressive, keen, 

[ 165 ] 

My First Summer 

crashing, intensely concentrated, speaking 
with such tremendous energy it would seem 
that an entire mountain is being shattered 
at every stroke, but probably only a few 
trees are being shattered, many of which I 
have seen on my walks hereabouts strewing 
the ground. At last the clear ringing strokes 
are succeeded by deep low tones that grow 
gradually fainter as they roll afar into the 
recesses of the echoing mountains, where 
they seem to be welcomed home. Then 
another and another peal, or rather crash- 
ing, splintering stroke, follows in quick suc- 
cession, perchance splitting some giant pine 
or fir from top to bottom into long rails 
and slivers, and scattering them to all points 
of the compass. Now comes the rain, with 
corresponding extravagant grandeur, cover- 
ing the ground high and low with a sheet 
of flowing water, a transparent film fitted 
like a skin upon the rugged anatomy of 
the landscape, making the rocks glitter and 
glow, gathering in the ravines, flooding the 

[ 166 ] 

Thunder-storm over Tosemlte 

In the Sierra 

streams, and making them shout and boom 
in reply to the thunder. 

How interesting to trace the history of 
a single raindrop! It is not long, geologi- 
cally speaking, as we have seen, since the 
first raindrops fell on the newborn leafless 
Sierra landscapes. How different the lot of 
these falling now ! Happy the showers that 
fall on so fair a wilderness, scarce a single 
drop can fail to find a beautiful spot, on 
the tops of the peaks, on the shining glacier 
pavements, on the great smooth domes, on 
forests and gardens and brushy moraines, 
plashing, glinting, pattering, laving. Some 
go to the high snowy fountains to swell 
their well-saved stores; some into the lakes, 
washing the mountain windows, patting 
their smooth glassy levels, making dimples 
and bubbles and spray ; some into the water- 
falls and cascades, as if eager to join in their 
dance and song and beat their foam yet 
finer; good luck and good work for the 
happy mountain raindrops, each one of 

[ 167 ] 

My First Summer 

them a high waterfall in itself, descending 
from the cliffs and hollows of the clouds to 
the cliffs and hollows of the rocks, out of 
the sky-thunder into the thunder of the 
falling rivers. Some, falling on meadows 
and bogs, creep silently out of sight to the 
grass roots, hiding softly as in a nest, slip- 
ping, oozing hither, thither, seeking and 
finding theirappointed work. Some,descend- 
ing through the spires of the woods, sift 
spray through the shining needles, whisper- 
ing peace and good cheer to each one of 
them. Some drops with happy aim glint on 
the sides of crystals, quartz, hornblende, 
garnet, zircon, tourmaline, feldspar, patter 
on grains of gold and heavy way-worn nug- 
gets; some, with blunt plap-plap and low 
bass drumming, fall on the broad leaves 
of veratrum, saxifrage, cypripedium. Some 
happy drops fall straight into the cups of 
flowers, kissing the lips of lilies. How r far 
they have to go, how many cups to fill, great 
and small, cells too small to be seen, cups 

[ 168 ] 

In the Sierra 

holding half a drop as well as lake basins 
between the hills, each replenished with 
equal care, every drop in all the blessed 
throng a silvery newborn star with lake and 
river, garden and grove, valley and moun- 
tain, all that the landscape holds reflected 
in its crystal depths, God's messenger, angel 
of love sent on its way with majesty and 
pomp and display of power that make 
man's greatest shows ridiculous. 

Now the storm is over, the skv is clear, 

* j 

the last rolling thunder-wave is spent on 
the peaks, and where are the raindrops 
now what has become of all the shining 
throng? In winged vapor rising some are 
already hastening back to the sky, some have 
gone into the plants, creeping through in- 
visible doors into the round rooms of cells, 
some are locked in crystals of ice, some in 
rock crystals, some in porous moraines to 
keep their small springs flowing, some have 
gone journeying on in the rivers to join the 
larger raindrop of the ocean. From form 

[ 169 ] 

My First Summer 

to form, beauty to beauty, ever changing, 
never resting, all are speeding on with 
love's enthusiasm, singing with the stars the 
eternal song of creation. 

July 20. - -Fine calm morning; air tense 
and clear; not the slightest breeze astir; 
everything shining, the rocks with wet 
crystals, the plants with dew, each receiving 
its portion of irised dewdrops and sunshine 
like living creatures getting their breakfast, 
their dew manna coming down from the 
starry sky like swarms of smaller stars. 
How wondrous fine are the particles in 
showers of dew, thousands required for a 
single drop, growing in the dark as silently 
as the grass ! What pains are taken to keep 
this wilderness in health,- - showers of snow, 
showers of rain, showers of dew, floods of 
light, floods of invisible vapor, clouds, winds, 
all sorts of weather, interaction of plant 
on plant, animal on animal, etc., beyond 
thought! How fine Nature's methods! How 
deeply with beauty is beauty overlaid ! the 

[ 170 ] 

In the Sierra 

ground covered with crystals, the crystals 
with mosses and lichens and low-spreading 
grasses and flowers, these with larger plants 
leaf over leaf with ever-changing color and 
form, the broad palms of the firs outspread 
over these, the azure dome over all like a 
bell-flower, and star above star. 

Yonder stands the South Dome, its crown 
high above our camp, though its base is 
four thousand feet below us ; a most noble 
rock, it seems full of thought, clothed with 
living light, no sense of dead stone about 
it, all spiritualized, neither heavy looking 
nor light, steadfast in serene strength like 
a god. 

Our shepherd is a queer character and 
hard to place in this wilderness. His bed 
is a hollow made in red dry-rot punky 
dust beside a log which forms a portion of 
the south wall of the corral. Here he lies 
with his wonderful everlasting clothing on, 
wrapped in a red blanket, breathing not 
only the dust of the decayed wood but also 

My First Summer 

that of the corral, as if determined to take 
ammoniacal snuff all night after chewing 
tobacco all day. Following the sheep he 
carries a heavy six-shooter swung from his 
belt on one side and his luncheon on the 
other. The ancient cloth in which the meat, 
fresh from the frying-pan, is tied serves as 
a filter through which the clear fat and 
gravy juices drip down on his right hip and 
leg in clustering stalactites. This oleaginous 
formation is soon broken up, however, and 
diffused and rubbed evenly into his scanty 
apparel, by sitting down, rolling over, cross- 
ing his legs while resting on logs, etc., 
making shirt and trousers water-tight and 
shiny. His trousers, in particular, have be- 
come so adhesive with the mixed fat and 
resin that pine needles, thin flakes and fibres 
of bark, hair, mica scales and minute grains 
of quartz, hornblende, etc., feathers, seed 
wings, moth and butterfly wings, legs and 
antennae of innumerable insects, or even 
whole insects such as the small beetles, 

[ 172 ] 

In the Sierra 

moths and mosquitoes, with flower petals, 
pollen dust and indeed bits of all plants, 
animals, and minerals of the region adhere 
to them and are safely imbedded, so that 
though far from being a naturalist he col- 
lects fragmentary specimens of everything 
and becomes richer than he knows. His 
specimens are kept passably fresh, too, by the 
purity of the air and the resiny bituminous 
beds into which they are pressed. Man is 
a microcosm, at least our shepherd is, or 
rather his trousers. These precious overalls 
are never taken off, and nobody knows how 
old they are, though one may guess by 
their thickness and concentric structure. 
Instead of wearing thin they wear thick, 
and in their stratification have no small 
geological significance. 

Besides herding the sheep, Billy is the 
butcher, while I have agreed to wash the few 
iron and tin utensils and make the bread. 
Then, these small duties done, by the time 
the sun is fairly above the mountain-tops I 

[ 173 1 

My First Summer 

am beyond the flock, free to rove and revel 
in the wilderness all the big immortal days. 
Sketching on the North Dome. It com- 
mands views of nearly all the valley besides 
a few of the high mountains. I would fain 
draw everything in sight, rock, tree, and 
leaf. But little can I do beyond mere out- 
lines, marks with meanings like words, 
readable only to myself,- -yet I sharpen my 
pencils and work on as if others might pos- 
sibly be benefited. Whether these picture- 
sheets are to vanish like fallen leaves or go 
to friends like letters, matters not much ; for 
little can they tell to those who have not 
themselves seen similar wildness, and like a 
language have learned it. No pain here, no 
dull empty hours, no fear of the past, no fear 
of the future. These blessed mountains are 
so compactly filled with God's beauty, no 
petty personal hope or experience has room 
to be. Drinking this champagne water is 
pure pleasure, so is breathing the living air, 
and every movement of limbs is pleasure, 

[ 174 ] 

In the Sierra 

while the whole body seems to feel beauty 
when exposed to it as it feels the camp-fire or 
sunshine, entering not by the eyes alone, but 
equally through all one's flesh like radiant 
heat, making a passionate ecstatic pleasure- 
glow not explainable. One's body then seems 
homogeneous throughout, sound as a crystal. 
Perched like a fly on this Yosemitedome, 
I gaze and sketch and bask, oftentimes set- 
tling down into dumb admiration without 
definite hope of ever learning much, yet 
with the longing, unresting effort that lies at 
the door of hope, humbly prostrate before 
the vast display of God's power, and eager 
to offer self-denial and renunciation with 
eternal toil to learn any lesson in the divine 



It is easier to feel than to realize, or in 
any way explain Yosemite grandeur. The 
magnitudes of the rocks and trees and streams 
are so delicately harmonized they are mostly 
hidden. Sheer precipices three thousand feet 
high are fringed with tall trees growing close 

My First Summer 

like grass on the brow of a lowland hill, and 
extending along the feet of these precipices 
a ribbon of meadow a mile wide and seven or 
eight long, that seems like a strip a farmer 
might mow in less than a day. Waterfalls, five 
hundred to one or two thousand feet high, 
are so subordinated to the mighty cliffs over 
which they pour that they seem like wisps 
of smoke, gentle as floating clouds, though 
their voices fill the valley and make the rocks 
tremble. The mountains, too, along the 
eastern sky, and the domes in front of them, 
and the succession of smooth rounded waves 
between, swelling higher, higher, with dark 
woods in their hollows, serene in massive 
exuberant bulk and beauty, tend yet more 
to hide the grandeur of the Yosemite temple 
and make it appear as a subdued subordinate 
feature of the vast harmonious landscape. 
Thus every attempt to appreciate any one 
feature is beaten down by the overwhelming 
influence of all the others. And, as if this 
were not enough, lo! in the sky arises 

[ 176 ] 

In the Sierra 

another mountain range with topography 
as rugged and substantial-looking as the 
one beneath it snowy peaks and domes 
and shadowy Yosemite valleys another 
version of the snowy Sierra, a new creation 
heralded by a thunder-storm. How fiercely, 
devoutly wild is Nature in the midst of 
her beauty-loving tenderness! painting 
lilies, watering them, caressing them with 
gentle hand, going from flower to flower 
like a gardener while building rock moun- 
tains and cloud mountains full of lightning 
and rain. Gladly we run for shelter beneath 
an overhanging cliff and examine the re- 
assuring ferns and mosses, gentle love tokens 
growing in cracks and chinks. Daisies, too, 
and ivesias, confiding wild children of light, 
too small to fear. To these one's heart goes 
home, and the voices of the storm become 
gentle. Now the sun breaks forth and fra- 
grant steam arises. The birds are out singing 
on the edges of the groves. The west is flam- 
ing in gold and purple, ready for the cere- 

My First Summer 

mony of the sunset, and back I go to camp 
with my notes and pictures, the best of them 
printed in my mind as dreams. A fruitful 
day, without measured beginning or ending. 
A terrestrial eternity. A gift of good God. 

Wrote to my mother and a few friends, 
mountain hints to each. They seem as near 
as if within voice-reach or touch. The 
deeper the solitude the less the sense of lone- 
liness, and the nearer our friends. Now bread 
and tea, fir bed and good-night to Carlo, a 
look at the sky lilies, and death sleep until 
the dawn of another Sierra to-morrow. 

July 21. Sketching on the Dome, - 
no rain; clouds at noon about quarter filled 
the sky, casting shadows with tine effect on 
the white mountains at the heads of the 
streams, and a soothing cover over the gar- 
dens during the warm hours. 

Saw a common house fly and a grasshop- 
per and a brown bear. The fly and grass- 
hopper paid me a merry visit on the top of 
the Dome, and I paid a visit to the bear in 

[ 173 ] 

In the Sierra 

the middle of a small garden meadow 
between the Dome and the camp where he 
was standing alert among the flowers as if 
willing to be seen to advantage. I had not 
gone more than half a mile from camp this 
morning, when Carlo, who was trotting on 
a few yards ahead of me, came to a sudden, 
cautious standstill. Down went tail and 
ears, and forward went his knowing nose, 
while he seemed to be saying " Ha, what 's 
this? A bear, I guess." Then a cautious 
advance of a few steps, setting his feet down 
softly like a hunting cat, and questioning 
the air as to the scent he had caught until 
all doubt vanished. Then he came back to 
me, looked me in the face, and with his 
speaking eyes reported a bear near by; then 
led on softly, careful, like an experienced 
hunter, not to make the slightest noise, and 
frequently looking back as if whispering 
" Yes, it 's a bear, come and I '11 show 
you." Presently we came to where the sun- 
beams were streaming through between the 

My First Summer 

purple vshafts of the firs, which showed that 
we were nearing an open spot, and here 
Carlo came behind me, evidently sure that 
the bear was very near. So I crept to a low 
ridge of moraine boulders on the edge 
of a narrow garden meadow, and in this 
meadow I felt pretty sure the bear must be. 
I was anxious to get a good look at the 
sturdy mountaineer without alarming him; 
so drawing myself up noiselessly back of 
one of the largest of the trees I peered past 
its bulging buttresses, exposing only a part 
of my head, and there stood neighbor Bruin 
within a stone's throw, his hips covered by 
tall grass and flowers, and his front feet on 
the trunk of a fir that had fallen out into 
the meadow, which raised his head so high 
that he seemed to be standing erect. He 
had not yet seen me, but was looking and 
listening attentively, showing that in some 
way he was aware of our approach. I watched 
his gestures and tried to make the most of 
my opportunity to learn what I could about 

1 80 ] 

In the Sierra 

him, fearing he would catch sight of me 
and run away. For I had been told that 
this sort of bear, the cinnamon, always ran 
from his bad brother man, never showing 
fight unless wounded or in defense of young. 
He made a telling picture standing alert in 
the sunny forest garden. How well he 
played his part, harmonizing in bulk and 
color and shaggy hair with the trunks of 
the trees and lush vegetation, as natural a 
feature as any other in the landscape. After 
examining at leisure, noting the sharp 
muzzle thrust inquiringly forward, the long 
shaggy hair on his broad chest, the stiff 
erect ears nearly buried in hair, and the 
slow heavy way he moved his head, I 
thought I should like to see his gait in run- 
ning, so I made a sudden rush at him, 
shouting and swinging my hat to frighten 
him, expecting to see him make haste to 
get away. But to my dismay he did not 
run or show any sign of running. On the 

contrary, he stood his ground ready to fight 

[ 181 ] 

My First Summer 

and defend himself, lowered his head, thrust 
it forward, and looked sharply and fiercely 
at me. Then I suddenly began to fear that 
upon me would fall the work of running ; 
but I was afraid to run, and therefore, like 
the bear, held my ground. We stood staring 
at each other in solemn silence within a 
dozen yards or thereabouts, while I fervently 
hoped that the power of the human eye 
over wild beasts would prove as great as it 
is said to be. How long our awfully strenu- 
ous interview lasted, I don't know; but at 
length in the slow fullness of time he pulled 
his huge paws down off the log, and with 
magnificent deliberation turned and walked 
leisurely up the meadow, stopping frequently 
to look back over his shoulder to see 
whether I was pursuing him, then moving 
on again, evidently neither fearing me very 
much nor trusting me. He was probably 
about five hundred pounds in weight, a 
broad rusty bundle of ungovernable wild- 
ness, a happy fellow whose lines have fallen 

[ 182 ] 

In the Sierra 

in pleasant places. The flowery glade in 
which I saw him so well, framed like a 
picture, is one of the best of all I have yet 
discovered, a conservatory of Nature's pre- 
cious plant people. Tall lilies were swing- 
ing their bells over that bear's back, with 
geraniums, larkspurs, columbines, and daisies 
brushing against his sides. A place for 
angels, one would say, instead of bears. 

In the great canons Bruin reigns su- 
preme. Happy fellow, whom no famine 
can reach while one of his thousand kinds 
of food is spared him. His bread is sure at 
all seasons, ranged on the mountain shelves 
like stores in a pantry. From one to the 
other, up or down he climbs, tasting and 
enjoying each in turn in different climates, 
as if he had journeyed thousands of miles 
to other countries north or south to enjoy 
their varied productions. I should like to 
know my hairy brothers better, - though 
after this particular Yosemite bear, my very 
neighbor, had sauntered out of sight this 

[ 183 ] 

My First Summer 

morning, I reluctantly went back to camp 
for the Don's rifle to shoot him, if neces- 
sary, in defense of the flock. Fortunately I 
could n't find him, and after tracking him 
a mile or two towards Mt. Hoffman I bade 
him Godspeed and gladly returned to my 
work on the Yosemite dome. 

The house fly also seemed at home and 
buzzed about me as I sat sketching, and en- 
joying my bear interview now it was over. 
I wonder what draws house flies so far up the 
mountains, heavy, gross feeders as they are, 
sensitive to cold, and fond of domestic ease. 
How have they been distributed from con- 
tinent to continent, across seas and deserts 
and mountain chains, usually so influential 
in determining boundaries of species both 
of plants and animals. Beetles and butter- 
flies are sometimes restricted to small areas. 
Each mountain in a range, and even the 
different zones of a mountain, may have 
its own peculiar species. But the house fly 
seems to be everywhere. I wonder if any 

[ 184 ] 

In the Sierra 

island in mid-ocean is flyless. The bluebot- 
tle is abundant in these Yosemite woods, 
ever ready with his marvelous store of eggs 
to make all dead flesh fly. Bumblebees are 
here, and are well fed on boundless stores of 
nectar and pollen. The honeybee, though 
abundant in the foothills, has not yet got so 
high. It is only a few years since the first 
swarm was brought to California. 

A queer fellow and a jolly fellow is the 
grasshopper. Up the mountains he comes 
on excursions, how high I don't know, but 
at least as far and high as Yosemite tourists. 
I was much interested with the hearty en- 
joyment oi the one that danced and sang 
for me on the Dome this afternoon. He 
seemed brimful of glad, hilarious energy, 
manifested by springing into the air to a 
height of twenty or thirty feet, then diving 
and springing up again and making a sharp 
musical rattle just as the lowest point in the 
descent was reached. Up and down a dozen 
times or so he danced and sang, then alighted 

[ 185 ] 

My First Summer 

to rest, then up and at it again. The curves 
he described in the air in diving and rat- 
tling resembled those made by cords hang- 
ing loosely and attached at the same height 

V \ ' ' 

- " -. 



at the ends, the loops nearly covering each 
other. Braver, heartier, keener, care-free 
enjoyment of life I have never seen or heard 
in any creature, great or small. The life of 

[ 186 ] 

In the Sierra 

this comic redlegs, the mountain's merriest 
child, seems to be made up of pure, con- 
densed gayety. The Douglas squirrel is the 
only living creature that I can compare 
him with in exuberant, rollicking, irrepress- 
ible jollity. Wonderful that these sublime 
mountains are so loudly cheered and bright- 
ened by a creature so queer. Nature in him 
seems to be snapping her fingers in the face 
of all earthy dejection and melancholy with 
a boyish hip-hip-hurrah. How the sound is 
made I do not understand. When he was on 
the ground he made not the slightest noise, 
nor when he was simply flying from place to 
place, but only when diving in curves, the 
motion seeming to be required for the sound ; 
for the more vigorous the diving the more 
energetic the corresponding outbursts of jolly 
rattling. I tried to observe him closely while 
he was resting in the intervals of his per- 
formances; but he would not allow a near 
approach, always getting his jumping legs 
ready to spring for immediate flight, and 

[ 187 ] 

My First Summer 

keeping his eyes on me. A fine sermon the 
little fellow danced for me on the Dome, 
a likely place to look for sermons in stones, 
but not for grasshopper sermons. A large 
and imposing pulpit for so small a preacher. 
No danger of weakness in the knees of the 
world while Nature can spring such a rat- 
tle as this. Even the bear did not express for 
me the mountain's wild health and strength 
and happiness so tellingly as did this com- 
ical little hopper. No cloud of care in his 
day, no winter of discontent in sight. To 
him every day is a holiday ; and when at 
length his sun sets, I fancy he will cuddle 
down on the forest floor and die like the 
leaves and flowers, and like them leave no 
unsightly remains calling for burial. 

Sundown, and I must to camp. Good- 
night, friends three,- -brown bear, rugged 
boulder of energy in groves and gardens 
fair as Eden; restless fussy fly with gauzy 
wings stirring the air around all the world; 
and grasshopper, crisp electric spark of 

[ 133 ] 

In the Sierra 

joy enlivening the massy sublimity of the 
mountains like the laugh of a child. Thank 
you, thank you all three for your quicken- 
ing company. Heaven guide every wing and 
leg. Good-night, friends three, good-night. 
yuly 22. A fine specimen of the black- 
tailed deer went bounding past camp this 
morning. A buck with wide spread of 
antlers, showing admirable vigor and grace. 
Wonderful the beauty, strength, and grace- 
ful movements of animals in wildernesses, 
cared for by Nature only, when our experi- 
ence with domestic animals would lead us 
to fear that all the so-called neglected wild 
beasts would degenerate. Yet the upshot 
of Nature's method of breeding and teach- 
ing seems to lead to excellence of every 
sort. Deer, like all wild animals, are as clean 
as plants. The beauties of their gestures and 
attitudes, alert or in repose, surprise yet more 
than their bounding exuberant strength. 
Every movement and posture is graceful, 
the very poetry of manners and motion. 

[ 189 ] 

My First Summer 

Mother Nature is too often spoken of as in 
reality no mother at all. Yet how wisely, 
sternly, tenderly she loves and looks after 
her children in all sorts of weather and 
wildernesses. The more I see of deer the 
more I admire them as mountaineers. They 
make their way into the heart of the 
roughest solitudes with smooth reserve of 
strength, through dense belts of brush and 
forest encumbered with fallen trees and 
boulder piles, across canons, roaring streams, 
and snow-fields, ever showing forth beauty 
and courage. Over nearly all the conti- 
nent the deer find homes. In the Florida 
savannas and hummocks, in the Canada 
woods, in the far north, roaming over 
mossy tundras, swimming lakes and rivers 
and arms of the sea from island to island 
washed with waves, or climbing rocky 
mountains, everywhere healthy and able, 
adding beauty to every landscape, a 
truly admirable creature and great credit 
to Nature. 

[ 190 ] 

In the Sierra 

Have been sketching a silver fir that 
stands on a granite ridge a few hundred yards 




to the eastward of camp, a fine tree with 
a particular snow-storm story to tell. It 
is about one hundred feet high, growing 

My First Summer 

on bare rock, thrusting its roots into a 
weathered joint less than an inch wide, 
and bulging out to form a base to bear its 
weight. The storm came from the north 
while it was young and broke it down nearly 
to the ground, as is shown by the old, dead, 
weather-beaten top leaning out from the 
living trunk built up from a new shoot below 
the break. The annual rings of the trunk 
that have overgrown the dead sapling tell 
the year of the storm. Wonderful that a 
side branch forming a portion of one of the 
level collars that encircle the trunk of this 
species (Abies magnified) should bend up- 
ward, grow erect, and take the place of the 
lost axis to form a new tree. 

Many others, pines as well as firs, bear 
testimony to the crushing severity of this 
particular storm. Trees, some of them fifty 
to seventy-five feet high, were bent to the 
ground and buried like grass, whole groves 
vanishing as if the forest had been cleared 
away, leaving not a branch or needle visible 

[ 192 ] 

In the Sierra 

until the spring thaw. Then the more 
elastic undamaged saplings rose again, aided 
by the wind, some reaching a nearly erect 
attitude, others remaining more or less bent, 
while those with broken backs endeavored 
to specialize a side branch below the break 

' It / i --"C 


and make a leader of it to form a new axis of 
development. It is as if a man, whose back 
was broken or nearly so and who was com- 
pelled to go bent, should find a branch 
backbone sprouting straight up from below 

My First Summer 

the break and should gradually develop new 
arms and shoulders and head, while the old 
damaged portion of his body died. 

Grand white cloud mountains and domes 
created about noon as usual, ridges and ranges 
of endless variety, as if Nature dearly loved 
this sort of work, doing it again and again 
nearly every day with infinite industry, and 
producing beauty that never palls. A few 
zigzags of lightning, five minutes' shower, 
then a gradual wilting and clearing. 

yuly 23. Another midday cloudland, 
displaying power and beauty that one never 
wearies in beholding, but hopelessly un- 
sketchable and untellable. What can poor 
mortals say about clouds ? While a descrip- 
tion of their huge glowing domes and ridges, 
shadowy gulfs and canons, and feather- 
edged ravines is being tried, they vanish, 
leaving no visible ruins. Nevertheless, these 
fleeting sky mountains are as substantial and 
significant as the more lasting upheavals of 
granite beneath them. Both alike are built 

In the Sierra 

up and die, and in God's calendar difference 
of duration is nothing. We can only dream 
about them in wondering, worshiping admi- 
ration, happier than we dare tell even to 
friends who see farthest in sympathy, glad to 
know that not a crystal or vapor particle of 
them, hard or soft, is lost; that they sink and 
vanish only to rise again and again in higher 
and higher beauty. As to our own work, duty, 
influence, etc., concerning which so much 
fussy pother is made, it will not fail of its 
due effect, though, like a lichen on a stone, 
we keep silent. 

July 24. Clouds at noon occupying 
about half the sky gave half an hour of heavy 
rain to wash one of the cleanest landscapes in 
the world. How well it is washed ! The sea 
is hardly less dusty than the ice-burnished 
pavements and ridges, domes and canons, 
and summit peaks plashed with snow like 
waves with foam. How fresh the woods are 
and calm after the last films of clouds have 
been wiped from the sky! A few minutes 

My First Summer 

ago every tree was excited, bowing to the 
roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their 
branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. 
But though to the outer ear these trees are 
now silent, their songs never cease. Every 
hidden cell is throbbing with music and life, 
every fibre thrilling like harp strings, while 
incense is ever flowing from the balsam bells 
and leaves. No wonder the hills and groves 
were God's first temples, and the more they 
are cut down and hewn into cathedrals and 
churches, the farther off and dimmer seems 
the Lord himself. The same may be said of 
stone temples. Yonder, to the eastward of 
our camp grove, stands one of Nature's cathe- 
drals, hewn from the living rock, almost 
conventional in form, about tw r o thousand 
feet high, nobly adorned with spires and pin- 
nacles, thrilling under floods of sunshine as 
if alive like a grove-temple, and well named 
"Cathedral Peak." Even Shepherd Billy 
turns at times to this wonderful mountain 
building, though apparently deaf to all stone 

[ 196] 

In the Sierra 

sermons. Snow that refused to melt in fire 
would hardly be more wonderful than un- 
changing dullness in the rays of God's beauty. 
I have been trying to get him to walk to the 
brink of Yosemite for a view, offering to 
watch the sheep for a day, while he should 
enjoy what tourists come from all over the 
world to see. But though within a mile of 
the famous valley, he will not go to it even 
out of mere curiosity. " What," says he, " is 
Yosemite but a canon- a lot of rocks a 
hole in the ground a place dangerous 
about falling into a d--d good place to 
keep away from.' ; " But think of the water- 
falls, Billy just think of that big stream 
we crossed the other day, falling half a mile 
through the air think of that, and the 
sound it makes. You can hear it now like the 
roar of the sea.' : Thus I pressed Yosemite 
upon him like a missionary offering the 
gospel, but he would have none of it. " I 
should be afraid to look over so high a wall/ 3 
he said. " It would make my head swim. 

[ '97 ] 

My First Summer 

There is nothing worth seeing anyway, only 
rocks, and I see plenty of them here. Tour- 
ists that spend their money to see rocks and 
falls are fools, that 's all. You can't humbug 
me. I 've been in this country too long for 
that.' 3 Such souls, I suppose, are asleep, 
or smothered and befogged beneath mean 
pleasures and cares. 

July 25. - - Another cloudland. Some 
clouds have an over-ripe decaying look, 
watery and bedraggled and drawn out into 
wind-torn shreds and patches, giving the 
sky a littered appearance ; not so these Si- 
erra summer midday clouds. All are beau- 
tiful with smooth definite outlines and curves 
like those of glacier-polished domes. They 
begin to grow about eleven o'clock, and seem 
so wonderfully near and clear from this high 
camp one is tempted to try to climb them 
and trace the streams that pour like cata- 
racts from their shadowy fountains. The 
rain to which they give birth is often very 

heavy, a sort of waterfall as imposing as if 

[ 198 ] 

In the Sierra 

pouring from rock mountains. Never in all 
my travels have I found anything more 
truly novel and interesting than these mid- 
day mountains of the sky, their fine tones 
of color, majestic visible growth, and ever- 
changing scenery and general effects, though 
mostly as well let alone as far as description 
goes. I oftentimes think of Shelley's cloud 
poem, " I sift the snow on the mountains 
below.' 1 

July 26. Ramble to the summit of 
Mt. Hoffman, eleven thousand feet high, 
the highest point in life's journey my feet 
have yet touched. And what glorious land- 
scapes are about me, new plants, new ani- 
mals, new crystals, and multitudes of new 
mountains far higher than Hoffman, tower- 
ing in glorious array along the axis of the 
range, serene, majestic, snow-laden, sun- 
drenched, vast domes and ridges shining 
below them, forests, lakes, and meadows in 
the hollows, the pure blue bell-flower sky 
brooding them all, a glory day of admis- 

[ 199 ] 

My First Summer 

sion into a new realm of wonders as if 
Nature had wooingly whispered, " Come 
higher/ 3 What questions I asked, and how 
little I know of all the vast show, and how 
eagerly, tremulously hopeful of some day 
knowing more, learning the meaning of 
these divine symbols crowded together on 
this wondrous page. 

Mt. Hoffman is the highest part of a ridge 
or spur about fourteen miles from the axis 
of the main range, perhaps a remnant 
brought into relief and isolated by unequal 
denudation. The southern slopes shed their 
waters into Yosemite Valley by Tenaya and 
Dome Creeks, the northern in part into 
the Tuolumne River, but mostly into the 
Merced by Yosemite Creek. The rock is 
mostly granite, with some small piles and 
crests rising here and there in picturesque 
pillared and castellated remnants of red 
metamorphic slates. Both the granite and 
slates are divided by joints, making them 

separable into blocks like the stones of arti- 

[ 200 ] 

In the Sierra 

ficial masonry, suggesting the Scripture " He 
hath builded the mountains. 3 Great banks 


' 9 I 



W '.^"r .','.' . 


r ' 

. ' 

>. -jaj^rf' "i* 

S ^r ,/ r 

.^t 1 I 




of snow and ice are piled in hollows on the 
cool precipitous north side forming the 
highest perennial sources of Yosemite Creek. 

[ 201 ] 

My First Summer 

The southern slopes are much more gradual 
and accessible. Narrow slot-like gorges 
extend across the summit at right angles, 
which look like lanes, formed evidently by 
the erosion of less resisting beds. They are 
usually called " devil's slides," though they 
lie far above the region usually haunted 
by the devil ; for though we read that he 
once climbed an exceeding high mountain, 
he cannot be much of a mountaineer, for 
his tracks are seldom seen above the timber- 

The broad gray summit is barren and 
desolate-looking in general views, wasted 
by ages of gnawing storms ; but looking 
at the surface in detail, one finds it cov- 
ered by thousands and millions of charm- 
ing plants with leaves and flowers so small 
they form no mass of color visible at a 
distance of a few hundred yards. Beds of 
azure daisies smile confidingly in moist hol- 
lows, and along the banks of small rills, 

with several species of eriogonum, silky- 

[ 202 ] 

In the Sierra 

leaved ivesia, pentstemon, orthocarpus, and 
patches of Primula sujfruticosa, a beautiful 
shrubby species. Here also I found bryan- 
thus, a charming heathwort covered with 
purple flowers and dark green foliage like 
heather, and three trees new to me, 
a hemlock and two pines. The hemlock 
(Tsuga Mertensiana) is the most beautiful 
conifer I have ever seen ; the branches and 
also the main axis droop in a singularly 
graceful way, and the dense foliage covers 
the delicate, sensitive, swaying branchlets 
all around. It is now in full bloom, and 
the flowers, together with thousands of last 
season's cones still clinging to the droop- 
ing sprays, display wonderful wealth of 
color, brown and purple and blue. Gladly 
I climbed the first tree I found to revel in 
the midst of it. How the touch of the 
flowers makes one's flesh tingle ! The pis- 
tillate are dark, rich purple, and almost 
translucent, the staminate blue, a vivid, 
pure tone of blue like the mountain sky, 

[ 203 ] 

My First Summer 

the most uncommonly beautiful of all the 
Sierra tree flowers I have seen. How won- 
derful that, with all its delicate feminine 
grace and beauty of form and dress and 
behavior, this lovely tree up here, exposed 
to the wildest blasts, has already endured 
the storms of centuries of winters ! 

The two pines also are brave storm- 
enduring trees, the mountain pine (Pinus 
monticola] and the dwarf pine (Pinus albi- 
caulisY The mountain pine is closely related 
to the sugar pine, though the cones are only 
about four to six inches long. The largest 
trees are from five to six feet in diame- 
ter at four feet above the ground, the 
bark rich brown. Only a few storm-beaten 
adventurers approach the summit of the 
mountain. The dwarf or white-bark pine 
is the species that forms the timber-line, 
where it is so completely dwarfed that 
one may walk over the top of a bed of 
it as over snow-pressed chaparral. 

How boundless the day seems as we revel 

[ 204 ] 

Foliage and Cones of Sierra Hemlock (Tsuga Mertensiand} 

In the Sierra 

in these storm-beaten sky gardens amid so 
vast a congregation of onlooking moun- 
tains ! Strange and admirable it is that the 
more savage and chilly and storm-chafed 
the mountains, the finer the glow on their 
faces and the finer the plants they bear. 
The myriads of flowers tingeing the moun- 
tain-top do not seem to have grown out 
of the dry, rough gravel of disintegration, 
but rather they appear as visitors, a cloud 
of witnesses to Nature's love in what we in 
our timid ignorance and unbelief call howl- 
ing desert. The surface of the ground, so 
dull and forbidding at first sight, besides be- 
ing rich in plants, shines and sparkles with 
crystals : mica, hornblende, feldspar, quartz, 
tourmaline. The radiance in some places 
is so great as to be fairly dazzling, keen 
lance rays of every color flashing, sparkling 
in glorious abundance, joining the plants 
in their fine, brave beauty-work, every 
crystal, every flower a window opening into 
heaven, a mirror reflecting the Creator. 

[ 205 ] 

My First Summer 

From garden to garden, ridge to ridge, I 
drifted enchanted, now on my knees gazing 
into the face of a daisy, now climbing again 
and again among the purple and azure flow- 
ers of the hemlocks, now down into the 
treasuries of the snow, or gazing afar over 
domes and peaks, lakes and woods, and the 
billowy glaciated fields of the upper Tuo- 
lumne, and trying to sketch them. In the 
midst of such beauty, pierced with its rays, 
one's body is all one tingling palate. Who 
would n't be a mountaineer ! Up here all 
the world's prizes seem nothing. 

The largest of the many glacier lakes in 
sight, and the one with the finest shore 
scenery, is Tenaya, about a mile long, with 
an imposing mountain dipping its feet into 
it on the south side, Cathedral Peak a few 
miles above its head, many smooth swell- 
ing rock-waves and domes on the north, 
and in the distance southward a multitude 
of snowy peaks, the fountain-heads of riv- 
ers. Lake Hoffman lies shimmering be- 

[ 206 ] 

In the Sierra 

neath my feet, mountain pines around its 
shining rim. To the northward the pic- 
turesque basin of Yosemite Creek glitters 
with lakelets and pools ; but the eye is soon 
drawn away from these bright mirror wells, 
however attractive, to revel in the glorious 
congregation of peaks on the axis of the 
range in their robes of snow and light. 

Carlo caught an unfortunate woodchuck 
when it was running from a grassy spot to 
its boulder-pile home one of the hardiest 
of the mountain animals. I tried hard to 
save him, but in vain. After telling Carlo 
that he must be careful not to kill any- 
thing, I caught sight, for the first time, of 
the curious pika, or little chief hare, that 
cuts large quantities of lupines and other 
plants and lays them out to dry in the sun 
for hay, which it stores in underground 
barns to last through the long, snowy win- 
ter. Coming upon these plants freshly cut 
and lying in handfuls here and there on 
the rocks has a startling effect of busy life 

[ 207 ] 

My First Summer 

on the lonely mountain-top. These little 
haymakers, endowed with brain stuff some- 
thing like our own,- God up here look- 
ing after them, what lessons they teach, 
how they widen our sympathy ! 

An eagle soaring above a sheer cliff, 
where I suppose its nest is, makes another 
striking show of life, and helps to bring 
to mind the other people of the so-called sol- 
itude, - - deer in the forest caring for their 
young ; the strong, well-clad, well-fed bears ; 
the lively throng of squirrels ; the blessed 
birds, great and small, stirring and sweet- 
ening the groves ; and the clouds of happy 
insects filling the sky with joyous hum as 
part and parcel of the down-pouring sun- 
shine. All these come to mind, as well as 
the plant people, and the glad streams sing- 
ing their way to the sea. But most im- 
pressive of all is the vast glowing coun- 
tenance of the wilderness in awful, infinite 

Toward sunset, enjoyed a fine run to 

[ 208 ] 

In the Sierra 

camp, down the long south slopes, across 
ridges and ravines, gardens and avalanche 
gaps, through the firs and chaparral, enjoy- 
ing wild excitement and excess of strength, 
and so ends a day that will never end. 

July 27. Up and away to Lake Te- 
naya, another big day, enough for a life- 
time. The rocks, the air, everything speak- 
ing with audible voice or silent ; joyful, 
wonderful, enchanting, banishing weari- 
ness and sense of time. No longing for 
anything now or hereafter as we go home 
into the mountain's heart. The level sun- 
beams are touching the fir-tops, every leaf 
shining with dew. Am holding an easterly 
course, the deep canon of Teriaya Creek on 
the right hand, Mt. Hoffman on the left, 
and the lake straight ahead about ten miles 
distant, the summit of Mt. Hoffman about 
three thousand feet above me, Tenaya Creek 
four thousand feet below and separated 
from the shallow, irregular valley, along 
which most of the way lies, by smooth 

[ 209 ] 

My First Summer 

domes and wave-ridges. Many mossy em- 
erald bogs, meadows, and gardens in rocky 
hollows to wade and saunter through, 
and what fine plants they give me, what joy- 
ful streams I have to cross, and how many 
views are displayed of the Hoffman and 
Cathedral Peak masonry, and what a won- 
drous breadth of shining granite pavement 
to walk over for the first time about the 
shores of the lake ! On I sauntered in free- 
dom complete; body without weight as far 
as I was aware; now wading through starry 
parnassia bogs, now through gardens shoul- 
der deep in larkspur and lilies, grasses and 
rushes, shaking off showers of dew; cross- 
ing piles of crystalline moraine boulders, 
bright mirror pavements, and cool, cheery 
streams going to Yosemite; crossing bryan- 
thus carpets and the scoured pathways of 
avalanches, and thickets of snow-pressed 
ceanothus; then down a broad, majestic 
stairway into the ice-sculptured lake-basin. 
The snow on the high mountains is melt- 

[ 210 ] 

/// the Sierra - 

ing fast, and the streams are singing bank- 
full, swaying softly through the level mead- 
ows and bogs, quivering with sun-spangles, 
swirling in pot-holes, resting in deep pools, 
leaping, shouting in wild, exulting energy 
over rough boulder dams, joyful, beautiful 
in all their forms. No Sierra landscape that 
I have seen holds anything truly dead or 
dull, or any trace of what in manufactories 
is called rubbish or waste ; everything is 
perfectly clean and pure and full of divine 
lessons. This quick, inevitable interest at- 
taching to everything seems marvelous un- 
til the hand of God becomes visible ; then 
it seems reasonable that what interests Him 
may well interest us. When we try to pick 
out anything by itself, we find it hitched 
to everything else in the universe. One fan- 
cies a heart like our own must be beating 
in every crystal and cell, and we feel like 
stopping to speak to the plants and animals 
as friendly fellow-mountaineers. Nature as 
a poet, an enthusiastic workingman, be- 

[ 211 ] 

My First Summer 

comes more and more visible the farther 
and higher we go ; for the mountains are 
fountains - - beginning places, however re- 
lated to sources beyond mortal ken. 

I found three kinds of meadows : 
(i) Those contained in basins not yet filled 
with earth enough to make a dry surface. 
They are planted with several species of 
carex, and have their margins diversified 
with robust flowering plants such as vera- 
trum, larkspur, lupine, etc. (2) Those con- 
tained in the same sort of basins, once lakes 
like the first, but so situated in relation to 
the streams that flow through them and 
beds of transportable sand, gravel, etc., that 
they are now high and dry and well drained. 
This dry condition and corresponding dif- 
ference in their vegetation may be caused 
by no superiority of position, or power of 
transporting filling material in the streams 
that belong to them, but simply by the 
basin being shallow and therefore sooner 
filled. They are planted with grasses, mostly 

[ 212 ] 

In the Sierra 

fine, silky, and rather short-leaved, Ca/a- 
magrostis and Agrostis being the principal 
genera. They form delightfully smooth, 
level sods in which one finds two or three 
species of gentian and as many of purple 
and yellow orthocarpus, violet, vaccinium, 
kalmia, bryanthus, and lonicera. (3) Mead- 
ows hanging on ridge and mountain slopes, 
not in basins at all, but made and held in 
place by masses of boulders and fallen trees, 
which, forming dams one above another in 
close succession on small, outspread, chan- 
nelless streams, have collected soil enough 
for the growth of grasses, carices, and many 
flowering plants, and being kept well wa- 
tered, without being subject to currents 
sufficiently strong to carry them away, a 
hanging or sloping meadow is the result. 
Their surfaces are seldom so smooth as the 
others, being roughened more or less by 
the projecting tops of the dam rocks or 
logs ; but at a little distance this rough- 
ness is not noticed, and the effect is very 

[ 213 ] 

My First Summer 

striking, bright green, fluent, down-sweep- 
ing flowery ribbons on gray slopes. The 
broad shallow streams these meadows be- 
long to are mostly derived from banks of 
snow and because the soil is well drained 
in some places, while in others the dam 
rocks are packed close and caulked with 
bits of wood and leaves, making boggy 
patches; the vegetation, of course, is cor- 
respondingly varied. I saw patches of wil- 
low, bryanthus, and a fine show of lilies 
on some of them, not forming a margin, 
but scattered about among the carex and 
grass. Most of these meadows are now in 
their prime. How wonderful must be the 
temper of the elastic leaves of grasses and 
sedges to make curves so perfect and fine, 
Tempered a little harder, they would stand 
erect, stiff and bristly, like strips of metal , 
a little softer, and every leaf would lie flat, 
And what fine painting and tinting there 
is on the glumes and pales, stamens and 
feathery pistils. Butterflies colored like the 

[ 214 ] 

In the Sierra 

flowers waver above them in wonderful 
profusion, and many other beautiful winged 
people, numbered and known and loved 
only by the Lord, are waltzing together 
high over head, seemingly in pure play and 
hilarious enjoyment of their little sparks 
of life. How wonderful they are ! How do 
they get a living, and endure the weather ? 
How are their little bodies, with muscles, 
nerves, organs, kept warm and jolly in such 
admirable exuberant health ? Regarded only 
as mechanical inventions, how wonderful 
they are ! Compared with these, Godlike 
man's greatest machines are as nothing. 

Most of the sandy gardens on moraines 
are in prime beauty like the meadows, 
though some on the north sides of rocks 
and beneath groves of sapling pines have 
not yet bloomed. On sunny sheets of crys- 
tal soil along the slopes of the Hoffman 
mountains, I saw extensive patches of ive- 
sia and purple gilia with scarce a green leaf, 
making fine clouds of color. Ribes bushes, 

[ 215 ] 

My First Summer 

vaccinium, and kalmia, now in flower, 
make beautiful rugs and borders along the 
banks of the streams. Shaggy beds of dwarf 
oak (<j%uercuscbrysolepts,\zr. vaccmifo/ia) over 
which one may walk are common on rocky 
moraines, yet this is the same species as the 
large live oak seen near Brown's Flat. The 
most beautiful of the shrubs is the purple- 
flowered bryanthus, here making glorious 
carpets at an elevation of nine thousand feet. 
The principal tree for the first mile or 
two from camp is the magnificent silver fir, 
which reaches perfection here both in size 
and form of individual trees and in the mode 
of grouping in groves with open spaces be- 
tween. So trim and tasteful are these sil- 
very, spiry groves one would fancy they 
must have been placed in position by some 
master landscape gardener, their regularity 
seeming almost conventional. But Nature 
is the only gardener able to do work so 
fine. A few noble specimens two hundred 
feet high occupy central positions in the 

[ 216 ] 

Magnificent Silver Firs (Mr. Muir in foreground} 

In the Sierra 

groups with younger trees around them ; 
and outside of these another circle of yet 
smaller ones, the whole arranged like taste- 
fully symmetrical bouquets, every tree fitting 
nicely the place assigned to it as if made es- 
pecially for it ; small roses and eriogonums 
are usually found blooming on the open 
spaces about the groves, forming charm- 
ing pleasure grounds. Higher, the firs grad- 
ually become smaller and less perfect, many 
showing double summits, indicating storm 
stress. Still, where good moraine soil is 
found, even on the rim of the lake-basin, 
specimens one hundred and fifty feet in 
height and five feet in diameter occur nearly 
nine thousand feet above the sea. The sap- 
lings, I find, are mostly bent with the crush- 
ing weight of the winter snow, which at this 
elevation must be at least eight or ten feet 
deep, judging by marks on the trees ; and 
this depth of compacted snow is heavy 
enough to bend and bury young trees twenty 
or thirty feet in height and hold them 

[ 217 ] 

My First Summer 

down for four or five months. Some are 
broken ; the others spring up when the snow 
melts and at length attain a size that en- 
ables them to withstand the snow pressure. 
Yet even in trees five feet thick the traces 
of this early discipline are still plainly to 
be seen in their curved insteps, and fre- 
quently in old dried saplings protruding 
from the trunk, partially overgrown by the 
new axis developed from a branch below 
the break. Yet through all this stress the 
forest is maintained in marvelous beauty. 

Beyond the silver firs I find the two- 
leaved pine (Pinus contort a , var. Murray ana] 
forms the bulk of the forest up to an ele- 
vation of ten thousand feet or more, the 
highest timber-belt of the Sierra. I saw a 
specimen nearly five feet in diameter grow- 
ing on deep, well-watered soil at an ele- 
vation of about nine thousand feet. The 
form of this species varies very much with 
position, exposure, soil, etc. On stream- 
banks, where it is closely planted, it is very 

[ 218 ] 

In the Sierra 

slender ; some specimens seventy-five feet 
high do not exceed five inches in diameter 
at the ground, but the ordinary form, as far 
as I have seen, is well proportioned. The 
average diameter when full grown at this 
elevation is about twelve or fourteen inches, 
height forty or fifty feet, the straggling 
branches bent up at the end, the bark thin 
and bedraggled with amber-colored resin. 
The pistillate flowers form little crimson 
rosettes a fourth of an inch in diameter 
on the ends of the branchlets, mostly hid- 
den in the leaf-tassels ; the staminate are 
about three eighths of an inch in dia- 
meter, sulphur-yellow, in showy clusters, 
giving a remarkably rich effect, a brave, 
hardy mountaineer pine, growing cheer- 
ily on rough beds of avalanche boulders 
and joints of rock pavements, as well as 
in fertile hollows, standing up to the 
waist in snow every winter for centuries, 
facing a thousand storms and blooming 
every year in colors as bright as those 

[ 219 ] 

My First Summer 

worn by the sun-drenched trees of the 

A still hardier mountaineer is the Si- 
erra juniper (Juniperus occidentalis^ growing 
mostly on domes and ridges and glacier 
pavements. A thickset, sturdy, picturesque 
highlander, seemingly content to live for 
more than a score of centuries on sunshine 
and snow ; a truly wonderful fellow, dogged 
endurance expressed in every feature, last- 
ing about as long as the granite he stands 
on. Some are nearly as broad as high. I 
saw one on the shore of the lake nearly 
ten feet in diameter, and many six to eight 
feet. The bark, cinnamon-colored, flakes 
off in long ribbon-like strips with a satiny 
lustre. Surely the most enduring of all tree 
mountaineers, it never seems to die a natu- 
ral death, or even to fall after it has been 
killed. If protected from accidents, it would 
perhaps be immortal. I saw some that had 
withstood an avalanche from snowy Mt. 
Hoffman cheerily putting out new branches, 

[ 220 ] 

In the Sierra 

as if repeating, like Grip, "Never say die/ 1 
Some were simply standing on the pave- 
ment where no fissure more than half an 
inch wide offered a hold for its roots. The 
common height for these rock-dwellers 


is from ten to twenty feet ; most of the 
old ones have broken tops, and are mere 
stumps, with a few tufted branches, form- 
ing picturesque brown pillars on bare pave- 
ments, with plenty of elbow-room and a 

[ 221 ] 

My First Summer 

clear view in every direction. On good 
moraine soil it reaches a height of from 
forty to sixty feet, with dense gray foliage. 
The rings of the trunk are very thin, eighty 
to an inch of diameter in some specimens 
I examined. Those ten feet in diameter 
must be very old thousands of years. 
Wish I could live, like these junipers, on 
sunshine and snow, and stand beside them 
on the shore of Lake Tenaya for a thousand 
years. How much I should see, and how 
delightful it would be ! Everything in the 
mountains would find me and come to me, 
and everything from the heavens like light. 
The lake was named for one of the chiefs 
of the Yosemite tribe. Old Tenaya is said 
to have been a good Indian to his tribe. 
When a company of soldiers followed his 
band into Yosemite to punish them for 
cattle-stealing and other crimes, they fled 
to this lake by a trail that leads out of the 
upper end of the valley, early in the spring, 
while the snow was still deep ; but being 

[ 222 ] 

In the Sierra 

pursued, they lost heart and surrendered. 
A fine monument the old man has in this 
bright lake, and likely to last a long time, 
though lakes die as well as Indians, being 
gradually filled with detritus carried in by 
the feeding streams, and to some extent 
also by snow avalanches and rain and wind. 
A considerable portion of the Tenaya basin 
is already changed into a forested flat and 
meadow at the upper end, where the main 
tributary enters from Cathedral Peak. Two 
other tributaries come from the Hoffman 
Range. The outlet flows westward through 
Tenaya Canon to join the Merced River in 
Yosemite. Scarce a handful of loose soil is 
to be seen on the north shore. All is bare, 
shining granite, suggesting the Indian name 
of the lake, Pywiack, meaning shining rock. 
The basin seems to have been slowly ex- 
cavated by the ancient glaciers, a marvel- 
ous work requiring countless thousands of 
years. On the south side an imposing moun- 
tain rises from the water's edge to a height 

[ 223 ] 

My First Summer 

of three thousand feet or more, feathered 
with hemlock and pine ; and huge shining 
domes on the east, over the tops of which 
the grinding, wasting, molding glacier must 
have swept as the wind does to-day. 

July 28.- -No cloud mountains, only 
curly cirrus wisps scarce perceptible, and the 
want of thunder to strike the noon hour 
seems strange, as if the Sierra clock had 
stopped. Have been studying the magnified 
fir, - - measured one near two hundred and 
forty feet high, the tallest I have yet seen. 
This species is the most symmetrical of all 
conifers, but though gigantic in size it sel- 
dom lives more than four or five hundred 
years. Most of the trees die from the attacks 
of a fungus at the age of two or three cen- 
turies. This dry-rot fungus perhaps enters 
the trunk by way of the stumps of limbs 
broken off" by the snow that loads the broad 
palmate branches. The younger specimens 
are marvels of symmetry, straight and erect 
as a plumb-line, their branches in regular 

[ 224 ] 

In the Sierra 

level whorls of five mostly, each branch as 
exact in its divisions as a fern frond, and 
thickly covered by the leaves, making a 
rich plush over all the tree, excepting only 
the trunk and a small portion of the main 
limbs. The leaves turn upward, especially 
on the branchlets, and are stiff and sharp, 
pointed on all the upper portion of the 
tree. They remain on the tree about eight 
or ten years, and as the growth is rapid it 
is not rare to find the leaves still in place 
on the upper part of the axis where it is 
three to four inches in diameter, wide apart 
of course, and their spiral arrangement beau- 
tifully displayed. The leaf-scars are con- 
spicuous for twenty years or more, but 
there is a good deal of variation in different 
trees as to the thickness and sharpness of 
the leaves. 

After the excursion to Mt. Hoffman I 
had seen a complete cross-section of the 
Sierra forest, and I find that Abies magnified 
is the most symmetrical tree of all the 

[ 225 ] 

My First Summer 

noble coniferous company. The cones are 
grand affairs, superb in form, size, and 
color, cylindrical, stand erect on the upper 
branches like casks, and are from five to 
eight inches in length by three or four in 
diameter, greenish gray, and covered with 
fine down which has a silvery lustre in the 
sunshine, and their brilliance is augmented 
by beads of transparent balsam which seems 
to have been poured over each cone, bring- 
ing to mind the old ceremonies of anoint- 
ing with oil. If possible, the inside of the 
cone is more beautiful than the outside; the 
scales, bracts, and seed wings are tinted 
with the loveliest rosy purple with a bright 
lustrous iridescence ; the seeds, three fourths 
of an inch long, are dark brown. When 
the cones are ripe the scales and bracts fall 
off, setting the seeds free to fly to their 
predestined places, while the dead spike- 
like axes are left on the branches for many 
years to mark the positions of the vanished 
cones, excepting those cut off when green 

[ 226 ] 

In the Sierra 

by the Douglas squirrel. How he gets his 
teeth under the broad bases of the sessile 
cones, I don't know. Climbing these trees 
on a sunny day to visit the growing cones 
and to gaze over the tops of the forest is 
one of my best enjoyments. 

July 29. Bright, cool, exhilarating. 
Clouds about .05. Another glorious day of 
rambling, sketching, and universal enjoy- 

July 30. Clouds .20, but the regular 
shower did not reach us, though thunder 
was heard a few miles off striking the noon 
hour. Ants, flies, and mosquitoes seem to en- 
joy this fine climate. A few house flies have 
discovered our camp. The Sierra mosqui- 
toes are courageous and of good size, some 
of them measuring nearly an inch from tip 
of sting to tip of folded wings. Though 
less abundant than in most wildernesses, 
they occasionally make quite a hum and 
stir, and pay but little attention to time or 
place. They sting anywhere, any time of 

[ 227 ] 

My First Summer 

day, wherever they can find anything worth 
while, until they are themselves stung by 
frost. The large jet-black ants are only 
ticklish and troublesome when one is lying 
down under the trees. Noticed a borer 
drilling a silver fir. Ovipositor about an 
inch and a half in length, polished and 
straight like a needle. When not in use, 
it is folded back in a sheath, which ex- 
tends straight behind like the legs of a 
crane in flying. This drilling, I suppose, is 
to save nest building, and the after care of 
feeding the young. Who would guess that 
in the brain of a fly so much knowledge 
could find lodgment ? How do they know 
that their eggs will hatch in such holes, 
or, after they hatch, that the soft, help- 
less grubs will find the right sort of nour- 
ishment in silver fir sap? This domestic 
arrangement calls to mind the curious fam- 
ily of gallflies. Each species seems to know 
what kind of plant will respond to the irri- 
tation or stimulus of the puncture it makes 

[ 228 ] 

In the Sierra 

and the eggs it lays, in forming a growth 
that not only answers for a nest and home 
but also provides food for the young. Prob- 
ably these gallflies make mistakes at times, 
like anybody else ; but when they do, there 
is simply a failure of that particular brood, 
while enough to perpetuate the species do 
find the proper plants and nourishment. 
Many mistakes of this kind might be made 
without being discovered by us. Once a 
pair of wrens made the mistake of build- 
ing a nest in the sleeve of a workman's 
coat, which was called for at sundown, 
much to the consternation and discomfiture 
of the birds. Still the marvel remains that 
any of the children of such small people as 
gnats and mosquitoes should escape their 
own and their parents' mistakes, as well as 
the vicissitudes of the weather and hosts 
of enemies, and come forth in full vigor 
and perfection to enjoy the sunny world. 
When we think of the small creatures that 

are visible, we are led to think of many that 

[229 ] 

My First Summer 

are smaller still and lead us on and on into 
infinite mystery. 

July 31.- - Another glorious day, the air 
as delicious to the lungs as nectar to the 
tongue ; indeed the body seems one palate, 
and tingles equally throughout. Cloudiness 
about .05, but our ordinary shower has not 
yet reached us, though I hear thunder in 
the distance. 

The cheery little chipmunk, so common 
about Brown's Flat, is common here also, 
and perhaps other species. In their light, 
airy habits they recall the familiar species 
of the Eastern States, which we admired 
in the oak openings of Wisconsin as they 
skimmed along the zigzag rail fences. These 
Sierra chipmunks are more arboreal and 
squirrel-like. I first noticed them on the 
lower edge of the coniferous belt, where the 
Sabine and yellow pines meet, exceed- 
ingly interesting little fellows, full of odd, 
funny ways, and without being true squir- 
rels, have most of their accomplishments 

[ 230 ] 

In the Sierra 

without their aggressive quarrelsomeness. 
I never weary watching them as they frisk 
about in the bushes gathering seeds and 
berries, like song sparrows poising daintily 
on slender twigs, and making even less stir 
than most birds of the same size. Few 
of the Sierra animals interest me more ; 
they are so able, gentle, confiding, and 
beautiful, they take one's heart, and get 
themselves adopted as darlings. Though 
weighing hardly more than field mice, 
they are laborious collectors of seeds, nuts, 
and cones, and are therefore well fed, but 
never in the least swollen with fat or 
lazily full. On the contrary, of their frisky, 
birdlike liveliness there is no end. They 
have a great variety of notes correspond- 
ing with their movements, some sweet and 
liquid, like water dripping with tinkling 
sounds into pools. They seem dearly to 
love teasing a dog, coming frequently al- 
most within reach, then frisking away with 
lively chipping, like sparrows, beating time 

[ 231 ] 

My First Summer 

to their music with their tails, which at 
each chip describe half circles from side 
to side. Not even the Douglas squirrel is 
surer-footed or more fearless. I have seen 
them running about on sheer precipices of 
the Yosemite walls seemingly holding on 
with as little effort as flies, and as uncon- 
scious of danger, where, if the slightest slip 
were made, they would have fallen two 
or three thousand feet. How fine it would 
be could we mountaineers climb these tre- 
mendous cliffs with the same sure grip ! The 
venture I made the other day for a view 
of the Yosemite Fall, and which tried my 
nerves so sorely, this little Tamias would 
have made for an ear of grass. 

The woodchuck (Arctomys monax) of the 
bleak mountain-tops is a very different sort 
of mountaineer the most bovine of ro- 
dents, a heavy eater, fat, aldermanic in bulk 
and fairly bloated, in his high pastures, like 
a cow in a clover field. One woodchuck 
would outweigh a hundred chipmunks, and 

[ 232 ] 

In the Sierra 

yet he is by no means a dull animal. In the 
midst of what we regard as storm-beaten 
desolation he pipes and whistles right cheer- 
ily, and enjoys long life in hisskyland homes. 
His burrow is made in disintegrated rocks 
or beneath large boulders. Coming out of 
his den in the cold hoarfrost mornings, he 
takes a sun-bath on some favorite flat-topped 
rock, then goes to breakfast in garden hol- 
lows, eats grass and flowers until comfort- 
ably swollen, then goes a-visiting to fight 
and play. How long a woodchuck lives in 
this bracing air I don't know, but some of 
them are rusty and gray like lichen-covered 

August i. A grand cloudland and five- 
minute shower, refreshing the blessed wil- 
derness, already so fragrant and fresh, steep- 
ing the black meadow mold and dead leaves 
like tea. 

The waycup, or flicker, so familiar to 
every boy in the old Middle West States, 
is one of the most common of the wood- 

[ 233 ] 

My First Summer 

peckers hereabouts, and makes one feel at 
home. I can see no difference in plumage 
or habits from the Eastern species, though 
the climate here is so different, - - a fine, 
brave, confiding, beautiful bird. The robin, 
too, is here, with all his familiar notes and 
gestures, tripping daintily on open garden 
spots and high meadows. Over all America 
he seems to be at home, moving from the 
plains to the mountains and from north to 
south, back and forth, up and down, with 
the march of the seasons and food supply. 
How admirable the constitution and tem- 
per of this brave singer, keeping in cheery 
health over so vast and varied a range ! 
Oftentimes, as I wander through these sol- 
emn woods, awe-stricken and silent, I hear 
the reassuring voice of this fellow wanderer 
ringing out, sweet and clear, " Fear not ! 
fear not ! 3 

The mountain quail (Oreortyx ricta) I 
often meet in my walks, a small brown 
partridge with a very long, slender, orna- 

[ 234 ] 

In the Sierra 

mental crest worn jauntily like a feather 
in a boy's cap, giving it a very marked 
appearance. This species is considerably 
larger than the valley quail, so common 
on the hot foothills. They seldom alight 
in trees, but love to wander in flocks of 
from five or six to twenty through the 
ceanothus and manzanita thickets and over 
open, dry meadows and rocks of the ridges 
where the forest is less dense or wanting, 
uttering a low clucking sound to enable 
them to keep together. When disturbed 
they rise with a strong birr of wing-beats, 
and scatter as if exploded to a distance of 
a quarter of a mile or so. After the danger 
is past they call one another together with 
a louder piping note, Nature's beautiful 
mountain chickens. I have not yet found 
their nests. The young of this season are 
already hatched and away, - - new broods 
of happy wanderers half as large as their 
parents. I wonder how they live through 
the long winters, when the ground is snow- 

[235 ] 

My First Summer 

covered ten feet deep. They must go down 
towards the lower edge of the forest, like 
the deer, though I have not heard of them 

The blue, or dusky, grouse is also com- 
mon here. They like the deepest and closest 
fir woods, and when disturbed, burst from 
the branches of the trees with a strong, 
loud whir of wing-beats, and vanish in a 
wavering, silent slide, without moving a 
feather, a stout, beautiful bird about the 
size of the prairie chicken of the old west, 
spending most of the time in the trees, 
excepting the breeding season, when it 
keeps to the ground. The young are now 
able to fly. When scattered by man or dog, 
they keep still until the danger is supposed 
to be past, then the mother calls them to- 
gether. The chicks can hear the call a dis- 
tance of several hundred yards, though it 
is not loud. Should the young be unable 
to fly, the mother feigns desperate lame- 
ness or death to draw one away, throwing 

[ 236 ] 

In the Sierra 

herself at one's feet within two or three 
yards, rolling over on her back, kicking and 
gasping, so as to deceive man or beast. They 
are said to stay all the year in the woods 
hereabouts, taking shelter in dense tufted 
branches of fir and yellow pine during snow- 
storms, and feeding on the young buds of 
these trees. Their legs are feathered down 
to their toes, and I have never heard of 
their suffering in any sort of weather. Able 
to live on pine and fir buds, they are for- 
ever independent in the matter of food, 
which troubles so many of us and controls 
our movements. Gladly, if I could, I would 
live forever on pine buds, however full of 
turpentine and pitch, for the sake of this 
grand independence. Just to think of our 
sufferings last month merely for grist-mill 
flour. Man seems to have more difficulty 
in gaining food than any other of the Lord's 
creatures. For many in towns it is a con- 
suming, life-long struggle ; for others, the 
danger of coming to want is so great, the 

[ 237 ] 

My First Summer 

deadly habit of endless hoarding for the fu- 
ture is formed, which smothers all real life, 
and is continued long after every reasonable 
need has been over-supplied. 

On Mt. Hoffman I saw a curious dove- 
colored bird that seemed half woodpecker, 
half magpie or crow. It screams something 
like a crow, but flies like a woodpecker, 
and has a long, straight bill, with which I 
saw it opening the cones of the mountain 
and white-barked pines. It seems to keep 
to the heights, though no doubt it comes 
down for shelter during winter, if not for 
food. So far as food is concerned, these 
bird-mountaineers, I guess, can glean auts 
enough, even in winter, from the different 
kinds of conifers; for always there are a 
few that have been unable to fly out of 
the cones and remain for hungry winter 

August 2.- Clouds and showers, about 
the same as yesterday. Sketching all day on 
the North Dome until four or five o'clock 

[ 238 ] 

In the Sierra 

in the afternoon, when, as I was busily 
employed thinking only of the glorious Yo- 
semite landscape, trying to draw every tree 
and every line and feature of the rocks, I 
was suddenly, and without warning, pos- 
sessed with the notion that my friend, Pro- 
fessor J. D. Butler, of the State University 
of Wisconsin, was below me in the valley, 
and I jumped up full of the idea of meet- 
ing him, with almost as much startling ex- 
citement as if he had suddenly touched me 
to make me look up. Leaving my work 
without the slightest deliberation, I ran 
down the western slope of the Dome and 
along the brink of the valley wall, looking 
for a way to the bottom, until I came to a 
side canon, which, judging by its apparently 
continuous growth of trees and bushes, I 
thought might afford a practical way into 
the valley, and immediately began to make 
the descent, late as it was, as if drawn irre- 
sistibly. But after a little, common sense 
stopped me and explained that it would be 

[ 239 ] 

My First Summer 

long after dark ere I could possibly reach 
the hotel, that the visitors would be asleep, 
that nobody would know me, that I had 
no money in my pockets, and moreover 
was without a coat. I therefore compelled 
myself to stop, and finally succeeded in rea- 
soning myself out of the notion of seeking 
my friend in the dark, whose presence I 
only felt in a strange, telepathic way. I suc- 
ceeded in dragging myself back through the 
woods to camp, never for a moment waver- 
ing, however, in my determination to go 
down to him next morning. This I think 
is the most unexplainable notion that ever 
struck me. Had some one whispered in my 
ear while I sat on the Dome, where I had 
spent so many days, that Professor Butler 
was in the valley, I could not have been 
more surprised and startled. When I was 
leaving the university he said, " Now, John, 
I want to hold you in sight and watch your 
career. Promise to write me at least once 
a year.' I received a letter from him in 

[ 240 ] 

In the Sierra 

July, at our first camp in the Hollow, writ- 
ten in May, in which he said that he might 
possibly visit California some time this sum- 
mer, and therefore hoped to meet me. But 
inasmuch as he named no meeting-place, 
and gave no directions as to the course he 
would probably follow, and as I should be 
in the wilderness all summer, I had not the 
slightest hope of seeing him, and all thought 
of the matter had vanished from my mind 
until this afternoon, when he seemed to be 
wafted bodily almost against my face. Well, 
to-morrow I shall see ; for, reasonable or 
unreasonable, I feel I must go. 

August 3 . Had a wonderful day. Found 
Professor Butler as the compass-needle finds 
the pole. So last evening's telepathy, tran- 
scendental revelation, or whatever else it 
may be called, was true ; for, strange to 
say, he had just entered the valley by way 
of the Coulterville Trail and was coming 
up the valley past El Capitan when his 
presence struck me. Had he then looked 

[ 241 ] 

My First Summer 

toward the North Dome with a good glass 
when it first came in sight, he might have 
seen me jump up from my work and run 
toward him. This seems the one well- 
defined marvel of my life of the kind 
called supernatural ; for, absorbed in glad 
Nature, spirit-rappings, second sight, ghost 
stories, etc., have never interested me since 
boyhood, seeming comparatively useless 
and infinitely less wonderful than Nature's 
open, harmonious, songful, sunny, every-day 

This morning, when I thought of having 
to appear among tourists at a hotel, I was 
troubled because I had no suitable clothes, 
and at best am desperately bashful and shy. 
I was determined to go, however, to see 
my old friend after two years among stran- 
gers ; got on a clean pair of overalls, a cash- 
mere shirt, and a sort of jacket, the 
best my camp wardrobe afforded, tied 
my note-book on my belt, and strode away 
on my strange journey, followed by Carlo. 

[ 242 ] 

In the Sierra 

I made my way through the gap discov- 
ered last evening, which proved to be In- 
dian Canon. There was no trail in it, and 
the rocks and brush were so rough that 
Carlo frequently called me back to help 
him down precipitous places. Emerging 
from the canon shadows, I found a man 
making hay on one of the meadows, and 
asked him whether Professor Butler was 
in the valley. "I don't know," he replied ; 
"but you can easily find out at the hotel. 
There are but few visitors in the valley 
just now. A small party came in yester- 
day afternoon, and I heard some one called 
Professor Butler, or Butterfield, or some 
name like that.' : 

In front of the gloomy hotel I found a 
tourist party adjusting their fishing tackle. 
They all stared at me in silent wonder- 
ment, as if I had been seen dropping down 
through the trees from the clouds, mostly, 
I suppose, on account of my strange garb. 
Inquiring for the office, I was told it was 

[ 243 ] 

My First Summer 

locked, and that the landlord was away, 
but I might find the landlady, Mrs. Hutch- 
ings, in the parlor. I entered in a sad state 
of embarrassment, and after I had waited in 
the big, empty room and knocked at several 
doors the landlady at length appeared, and 
in reply to my question said she rather 
thought Professor Butler was in the val- 
ley, but to make sure, she would bring the 
register from the office. Among the names 
of the last arrivals I soon discovered the 
Professor's familiar handwriting, at the sight 
of which bashfulness vanished ; and having 
learned that his party had gone up the val- 
ley, probably to the Vernal and Nevada 
Falls, I pushed on in glad pursuit, my 
heart now sure of its prey. In less than an 
hour I reached the head of the Nevada 
Canon at the Vernal Fall, and just out- 
side of the spray discovered a distinguished- 
looking gentleman, who, like everybody else 
I have seen to-day, regarded me curiously 
as I approached. When I made bold to in- 

[ 244 ] 

In the Sierra 

quire if he knew where Professor Butler 
was, he seemed yet more curious to know 
what could possibly have happened that re- 
quired a messenger for the Professor, and 
instead of answering my question he asked 
with military sharpness, " Who wants him ? " 
"I want him," I replied with equal sharp- 
ness. "Why? Do you know him ? " "Yes,'* 
I said. "Do you know him?' Astonished 
that any one in the mountains could pos- 
sibly know Professor Butler and find him 
as soon as he had reached the valley, he 
came down to meet the strange moun- 
taineer on equal terms, and courteously re- 
plied, " Yes, I know Professor Butler very 
well. I am General Alvord, and we were 
fellow students in Rutland, Vermont, long 
ago, when we were both young.' 1 " But 
where is he now ? ' I persisted, cutting short 
his story. "He has gone beyond the falls 
with a companion, to try to climb that 
big rock, the top of which you see from 
here.' ! His guide now volunteered the in- 

[ 245 ] 

My First Summer 

formation that it was the Liberty Cap Pro- 
fessor Butler and his companion had gone 
to climb, and that if I waited at the head 
of the fall I should be sure to find them 
on their way down. I therefore climbed 
the ladders alongside the Vernal Fall, and 
was pushing forward, determined to go to 
the top of Liberty Cap rock in my hurry, 
rather than wait, if I should not meet my 
friend sooner. So heart-hungry at times 
may one be to see a friend in the flesh, 
however happily full and care-free one's 
life may be. I had gone but a short dis- 
tance, however, above the brow of the Ver- 
nal Fall when I caught sight of him in 
the brush and rocks, half erect, groping 
his way, his sleeves rolled up, vest open, 
hat in his hand, evidently very hot and 
tired. When he saw me coming he sat 
down on a boulder to wipe the perspi- 
ration from his brow and neck, and taking 
me for one of the valley guides, he in- 
quired the way to the fall ladders. I pointed 

[ 246 ] 

In the Sierra 

out the path marked with little piles of 
stones, on seeing which he called his com- 
panion, saying that the way was found ; 
but he did not yet recognize me. Then I 

stood directly in front of him, looked him 


in the face, and held out my hand. He 
thought I was offering to assist him in 
rising. "Never mind," he said. Then I said, 
"Professor Butler, don't you know me?' 
"I think not,'' he replied; but catching 
my eye, sudden recognition followed, and 
astonishment that I should have found him 
just when he was lost in the brush and 
did not know that I was within hundreds 
of miles of him. "John Muir, John Muir, 
where have you come from ? ' Then I told 
him the story of my feeling his presence 
when he entered the valley last evening, 
when he was four or five miles distant, as 
I sat sketching on the North Dome. This, 
of course, only made him wonder the more. 
Below the foot of the Vernal Fall the guide 
was waiting with his saddle-horse, and I 

2 47 

My First Summer 

walked along the trail, chatting all the way 
back to the hotel, talking of school days, 
friends in Madison, of the students, how 
each had prospered, etc., ever and anon 
gazing at the stupendous rocks about us, 
now growing indistinct in the gloaming, 
and again quoting from the poets, a rare 

It was late ere we reached the hotel, and 
General Alvord was waiting the Professor's 
arrival for dinner. When I was introduced 
he seemed yet more astonished than the 
Professor at my descent from cloudland and 
going straight to my friend without know- 
ing in any ordinary way that he was even 
in California. They had come on direct 
from the East, had not yet visited any of 
their friends in the state, and considered 
themselves undiscoverable. As we sat at 
dinner, the General leaned back in his 
chair, and looking down the table, thus 
introduced me to the dozen guests or so, 
including the staring fisherman mentioned 

[ 248 ] 

In the Sierra 

above : " This man, you know, came down 
out of these huge, trackless mountains, you 
know, to find his friend Professor Butler 
here, the very day he arrived ; and how did 
he know he was here ? He just felt him, he 
says. This is the queerest case of Scotch far- 
sightedness I ever heard of," etc., etc. While 
my friend quoted Shakespeare : "'More 
things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than 
are dreamt of in your philosophy," "As the 
sun, ere he has risen, sometimes paints his 
image in the firmament, e'en so the shadows 
of events precede the events, and in to-day 
already walks to-morrow.' 

Had a long conversation, after dinner, 
over Madison days. The Professor wants 
me to promise to go with him, sometime, 
on a camping trip in the Hawaiian Islands, 
while I tried to get him to go back with 
me to camp in the high Sierra. But he 
says, " Not now." He must not leave the 
General ; and I was surprised to learn they 
are to leave the valley to-morrow or next 

2 49 

My First Summer 

day. I 'm glad I 'm not great enough to be 
missed in the busy world. 

August 4. It seemed strange to sleep 
in a paltry hotel chamber after the spacious 
magnificence and luxury of the starry sky 
and silver fir grove. Bade farewell to my 
friend and the General. The old soldier 
was very kind, and an interesting talker. 
He told me long stories of the Florida 
Seminole war, in which he took part, and 
invited me to visit him in Omaha. Calling 
Carlo, I scrambled home through the In- 
dian Canon gate, rejoicing, pitying the poor 
Professor and General, bound by clocks, 
almanacs, orders, duties, etc., and compelled 
to dwell with lowland care and dust and 
din, where Nature is covered and her voice 
smothered, while the poor, insignificant 
wanderer enjoys the freedom and glory of 
God's wilderness. 

Apart from the human interest of my 
visit to-day, I greatly enjoyed Yosemite, 
which I had visited only once before, 

[ 250 ] 

In the Sierra 

having spent eight days last spring in ram- 
bling amid its rocks and waters. Wherever 
we go in the mountains, or indeed in any 
of God's wild fields, we find more than we 
seek. Descending four thousand feet in a 
few hours, we enter a new world, - cli- 
mate, plants, sounds, inhabitants, and scenery 
all new or changed. Near camp the gold- 
cup oak forms sheets of chaparral, on top 
of which we may make our beds. Going 
down the Indian Canon we observe this lit- 
tle bush changing by regular gradations to 
a large bush, to a small tree, and then larger, 
until on the rocky taluses near the bottom 
of the valley we find it developed into a 
broad, wide-spreading, gnarled, picturesque 
tree from four to eight feet in diameter, 
and forty or fifty feet high. Innumerable are 
the forms of water displayed. Every gliding 
reach, cascade, and fall has characters of 
its own. Had a good view of the Vernal 
and Nevada, two of the main falls of the 
valley, less than a mile apart, and offering 

[ 251 ] 

My First Summer 

striking differences in voice, form, color, 
etc. The Vernal, four hundred feet high 
and about seventy-five or eighty feet wide, 
drops smoothly over a round-lipped preci- 
pice and forms a superb apron of em- 
broidery, green and white, slightly folded 
and fluted, maintaining this form nearly to 
the bottom, where it is suddenly veiled in 
quick-flying billows of spray and mist, in 
which the afternoon sunbeams play with 
ravishing beauty of rainbow colors. The 
Nevada is white from its first appearance 
as it leaps out into the freedom of the air. 
At the head it presents a twisted appear- 
ance, by an overfolding of the current from 
striking on the side of its channel just be- 
fore the first free outbounding leap is made. 
About two thirds of the way down, the 
hurrying throng of comet-shaped masses 
glance on an inclined part of the face of 
the precipice and are beaten into yet whiter 
foam, greatly expanded, and sent bounding 
outward, making an indescribably glorious 

L 2 52 

In the Sierra 

show, especially when the afternoon sun- 
shine is pouring into it. In this fall 
one of the most wonderful in the world 
the water does not seem to be under 
the dominion of ordinary laws, but rather 
as if it were a living creature, full of the 
strength of the mountains and their huge, 
wild joy. 

From beneath heavy throbbing blasts of 
spray the broken river is seen emerging 
in ragged boulder-chafed strips. These are 
speedily gathered into a roaring torrent, 
showing that the young river is still glo- 
riously alive. On it goes, shouting, roar- 
ing, exulting in its strength, passes through 
a gorge with sublime display of energy, 
then suddenly expands on a gently inclined 
pavement, down which it rushes in thin 
sheets and folds of lace-work into a quiet 
pool, "Emerald Pool,' 3 as it is called, - 
a stopping-place, a period separating two 
grand sentences. Resting here long enough 
to part with its foam-bells and gray mix- 

[ 253 ] 

My First Summer 

tures of air, it glides quietly to the verge 
of the Vernal precipice in a broad sheet 
and makes its new display in the Vernal 
Fall ; then more rapids and rock tossings 
down the canon, shaded by live oak, Doug- 
las spruce, fir, maple, and dogwood. It re- 
ceives the Illilouette tributary, and makes 
a long sweep out into the level, sun-filled 
valley to join the other streams which, 
like itself, have danced and sung their way 
down from snowy heights to form the 
main Merced,- -the river of Mercy. But 
of this there is no end, and life, when one 
thinks of it, is so short. Never mind, one 
day in the midst of these divine glories is 
well worth living and toiling and starving 

Before parting with Professor Butler he 
gave me a book, and I gave him one of 
my pencil sketches for his little son Henry, 
who is a favorite of mine. He used to make 
many visits to my room when I was a 
student. Never shall I forget his patriotic 

[ 254 ] - 

In the Sierra 

speeches for the Union, mounted on a tall 
stool, when he was only six years old. 

It seems strange that visitors to Yosemite 
should be so little influenced by its novel 
grandeur, as if their eyes were bandaged 
and their ears stopped. Most of those I saw 
yesterday were looking down as if wholly 
unconscious of anything going on about 
them, while the sublime rocks were trem- 
bling with the tones of the mighty chanting 
congregation of waters gathered from all 
the mountains round about, making music 
that might draw angels out of heaven. 
Yet respectable-looking, even wise-looking 
people were fixing bits of worms on bent 
pieces of wire to catch trout. Sport they 
called it. Should church-goers try to pass 
the time fishing in baptismal fonts while 
dull sermons were being preached, the 
so-called sport might not be so bad ; but 
to play in the Yosemite temple, seek- 
ing pleasure in the pain of fishes strug- 
gling for their lives, while God himself is 

[255 ] 

My First Summer 

preaching his sublimest water and stone 
sermons ! 

Now I 'm back at the camp-fire, and can- 
not help thinking about my recognition of 
my friend's presence in the valley while he 
was four or five miles away, and while I 
had no means of knowing that he was not 
thousands of miles away. It seems super- 
natural, but only because it is not under- 
stood. Anyhow, it seems silly to make so 
much of it, while the natural and com- 
mon is more truly marvelous and myste- 
rious than the so-called supernatural. In- 
deed most of the miracles we hear of are 
infinitely less wonderful than the com- 
monest of natural phenomena, when fairly 
seen. Perhaps the invisible rays that struck 
me while I sat at work on the Dome are 
something like those which attract and re- 
pel people at first sight, concerning which 
so much nonsense has been written. The 
worst apparent effect of these mysterious 
odd things is blindness to all that is divinely 

[ 256 ] 

In the Sierra 

common. Hawthorne, I fancy, could weave 
one of his weird romances out of this little 
telepathic episode, the one strange marvel 
of my life > probably replacing my good 
old Professor by an attractive woman. 

August 5. We were awakened this 
morning before daybreak by the furious 
barking of Carlo and Jack and the sound 
of stampeding sheep. Billy fled from his 
punk bed to the fire, and refused to stir 
into the darkness to try to gather the scat- 
tered flock, or ascertain the nature of the 
disturbance. It was a bear attack, as we 
afterward learned, and I suppose little was 
gained by attempting to do anything be- 
fore daylight. Nevertheless, being anxious 
to know what was up, Carlo and I groped 
our way through the woods, guided by the 
rustling sound made by fragments of the 
flock, not fearing the bear, for I knew that 
the runaways would go from their enemy 
as far as possible and Carlo's nose was also 
to be depended upon. About half a mile 

2 57 

My First Summer 

east of the corral we overtook twenty or 
thirty of the flock and succeeded in driving 
them back ; then turning to the westward, 
we traced another band of fugitives and 
got them back to the flock. After day- 
break I discovered the remains of a sheep 
carcass, still warm, showing that Bruin 
must have been enjoying his early mut- 
ton breakfast while I was seeking the run- 
aways. He had eaten about half of it. Six 
dead sheep lay in the corral, evidently 
smothered by the crowding and piling up 
of the flock against the side of the corral 
wall when the bear entered. Making a 
wide circuit of the camp, Carlo and I dis- 
covered a third band of fugitives and drove 
them back to camp. We also discovered 
another dead sheep half eaten, showing 
there had been two of the shaggy free- 
booters at this early breakfast. They were 
easily traced. They had each caught a 
sheep, jumped over the corral fence with 
them, carrying them as a cat carries a mouse, 

[ 258 ] 

In the Sierra 

laid them at the foot of fir trees a hun- 
dred yards or so back from the corral, and 
eaten their fill. After breakfast I set out 
to seek more of the lost, and found seventy- 
five at a considerable distance from camp. 
In the afternoon I succeeded, with Carlo's 
help, in getting them back to the flock. 
I don't know whether all are together 
again or not. I shall make a big fire this 
evening and keep watch. 

When I asked Billy why he made his 
bed against the corral in rotten wood, 
when so many better places offered, he 
replied that he " wished to be as near the 
sheep as possible in case bears should at- 
tack them.' 1 Now that the bears have 
come, he has moved his bed to the far 
side of the camp, and seems afraid that he 
may be mistaken for a sheep. 

This has been mostly a sheep day, and 
of course studies have been interrupted. 
Nevertheless, the walk through the gloom 
of the woods before the dawn was worth 

[ 259 ] 

My First Summer 

while, and I have learned something about 
these noble bears. Their tracks are very 
telling, and so are their breakfasts. Scarce 
a trace of clouds to-day, and of course our 
ordinary mid-day thunder is wanting. 

August 6. Enjoyed the grand illumi- 
nation of the camp grove, last night, from 
the fire we made to frighten the bears, 
compensation for loss of sleep and sheep. 
The noble pillars of verdure, vividly aglow, 
seemed to shoot into the sky like the flames 
that lighted them. Nevertheless, one of the 
bears paid us another visit, as if more at- 
tracted than repelled by the fire, climbed 
into the corral, killed a sheep and made 
off with it without being seen, while still 
another was lost by trampling and suffo- 
cation against the side of the corral. Now 
that our mutton has been tasted, I sup- 
pose it will be difficult to put a stop to 
the ravages of these freebooters. 

The Don arrived to-day from the low- 
lands with provisions and a letter. On learn- 

[ 260 ] 

In the Sierra 

ing the losses he had sustained, he deter- 
mined to move the flock at once to the 
upper Tuolumne region, saying that the 
bears would be sure to visit the camp every 
night as long as we stayed, and that no 
fire or noise we might make would avail 
to frighten them. No clouds save a few 
thin, lustrous touches on the eastern hori- 
zon. Thunder heard in the distance. 

August 7. - Early this morning bade 
good-by to the bears and blessed silver fir 
camp, and moved slowly eastward along 
the Mono Trail. At sundown camped for 
the night on one of the many small flowery 
meadows so greatly enjoyed on my excur- 
sion to LakeTenaya. The dusty, noisy flock 
seems outrageously foreign and out of place 
in these nature gardens, more so than bears 
among sheep. The harm they do goes to 
the heart, but glorious hope lifts above all 
the dust and din and bids me look for- 
ward to a good time coming, when money 
enough will be earned to enable me to go 


My First Summer 

walking where I like in pure wildness, 
with what I can carry on my back, and 
when the bread-sack is empty, run down 
to the nearest point on the bread-line for 
more. Nor will these run-downs be blanks, 
for, whether up or down, every step and 
jump on these blessed mountains is full of 
fine lessons. 

August 8. Camp at the west end of 
Lake Tenaya. Arriving early, I took a walk 
on the glacier-polished pavements along the 
north shore, and climbed the magnificent 
mountain rock at the east end of the lake, 
now shining in the late afternoon light. 
Almost every yard of its surface shows the 
scoring and polishing action of a great 
glacier that enveloped it and swept heavily 
over its summit, though it is about two 
thousand feet high above the lake and ten 
thousand above sea-level. This majestic, 
ancient ice-flood came from the eastward, 
as the scoring and crushing of the surface 
shows. Even below the waters of the lake 

[ 262 ] 

In the Sierra 

the rock in some places is still grooved 
and polished ; the lapping of the waves 
and their disintegrating action have not as 
yet obliterated even the superficial marks 
of glaciation. In climbing the steepest pol- 
ished places I had to take off shoes and 



r- f **-_/7>"*la_^ t *tt ' "^ *? as 5*flB'<tSk5* J ""'C > * 

"^' ) M ' - 




stockings. A fine region this for study of 
glacial action in mountain-making. I found 
many charming plants : arctic daisies, phlox, 
white spiraea, bryanthus, and rock-ferns, 
pellaea, cheilanthes, allosorus, fringing 
weathered seams all the way up to the 

[ 263 ] 

My First Summer 

summit ; and sturdy junipers, grand old 
gray and brown monuments, stood bravely 
erect on fissured spots here and there, tell- 
ing storm and avalanche stories of hun- 
dreds of winters. The view of the lake 
from the top is, I think, the best of all. 
There is another rock, more striking in 
form than this, standing isolated at the head 
of the lake, but it is not more than half 
as high. It is a knob or knot of burnished 
granite, perhaps about a thousand feet high, 
apparently as flawless and strong in struc- 
ture as a wave-worn pebble, and probably 
owes its existence to the superior resistance 
it offered to the action of the overflowing 

Made sketch of the lake, and sauntered 
back to camp, my iron-shod shoes clank- 
ing on the pavements disturbing the chip- 
munks and birds. After dark went out to 
the shore, not a breath of air astir, the 
lake a perfect mirror reflecting the sky 
and mountains with their stars and trees and 

[ 264 ] 

In the Sierra 

wonderful sculpture, all their grandeur re- 
fined and doubled, - - a marvelously im- 
pressive picture, that seemed to belong more 
to heaven than earth. 

August 9. I went ahead of the flock, 
and crossed over the divide between the 




Merced and Tuolumne basins. The gap be- 
tween the east end of the Hoffman spur and 
the mass of mountain rocks about Cathe- 
dral Peak, though roughened by ridges and 
waving folds, seems to be one of the chan- 

[ 265 ] 

My First Summer 

nels of a broad ancient glacier that came 
from the mountains on the summit of 
the range. In crossing this divide the ice- 
river made an ascent of about five hundred 
feet from the Tuolumne meadows. This 
entire region must have been overswept 
by ice. 

From the top of the divide, and also 
from the big Tuolumne Meadows, the 
wonderful mountain called Cathedral Peak 
is in sight. From every point of view it 
shows marked individuality. It is a majes- 
tic temple of one stone, hewn from the 
living rock, and adorned with spires and 
pinnacles in regular cathedral style. The 
dwarf pines on the roof look like mosses. 
I hope some time to climb to it to say my 
prayers and hear the stone sermons. 

The big Tuolumne Meadows are flowery 
lawns, lying along the south fork of the 
Tuolumne River at a height of about eighty- 
five hundred to nine thousand feet above 

the sea, partially separated by forests and 

[ 266 ] 

Tuolumne Meadow from Cathedral Peak 

In the Sierra 

bars of glaciated granite. Here the moun- 
tains seem to have been cleared away or 
set back, so that wide-open views may be 
had in every direction. The upper end of 
the series lies at the base of Mt. Lyell, the 
lower below the east end of the Hoffman 
Range, so the length must be about ten or 
twelve miles. They vary in width from a 
quarter of a mile to perhaps three quarters, 
and a good many branch meadows put out 
along the banks of the tributary streams. 
This is the most spacious and delightful 
high pleasure-ground I have yet seen. The 
air is keen and bracing, yet warm during 
the day ; and though lying high in the sky, 
the surrounding mountains are so much 
higher, one feels protected as if in a grand 
hall. Mts. Dana and Gibbs, massive red 
mountains, perhaps thirteen thousand feet 
high or more, bound the view on the east, 
the Cathedral and Unicorn Peaks, with many 
nameless peaks, on the south, the Hoffman 
Range on the west, and a number of peaks 

[ 267 ] 

My First Summer 

unnamed, as far as I know, on the north. 
One of these last is much like the Cathe- 
dral. The grass of the meadows is mostly 
fine and silky, with exceedingly slender 
leaves, making a close sod, above which 
the panicles of minute purple flowers seem 
to float in airy, misty lightness, w r hile the 
sod is enriched with at least three species 
of gentian and as many or more of ortho- 
carpus, potentilla, ivesia, solidago, pent- 
stemon, with their gay colors, purple, 
blue, yellow, and red, all of which I 
may know better ere long. A central camp 
will probably be made in this region, from 
which I hope to make long excursions into 
the surrounding mountains. 

On the return trip I met the flock about 
three miles east of Lake Tenaya. Here we 
camped for the night near a small lake lying 
on top of the divide in a clump of the two- 
leaved pine. We are now about nine thousand 
feet above the sea. Small lakes abound in all 
sorts of situations, on ridges, along moun- 

[ 268 ] 

In the Sierra 

tain sides, and in piles of moraine boulders, 
most of them mere pools. Only in those 
canons of the larger streams at the foot of 
declivities, where the down thrust of the 
glaciers was heaviest, do we find lakes of con- 
siderable size and depth. How grateful a 
task it would be to trace them all and study 
them ! How pure their waters are, clear as 
crystal in polished stone basins ! None of 
them, so far as I have seen, have fishes, I sup- 
pose on account of falls making them inac- 
cessible. Yet one would think their eggs 
might get into these lakes by some chance or 
other ; on ducks' feet, for example, or in their 
mouths, or in their crops, as some plant seeds 
are distributed. Nature has so many ways of 
doing such things. How did the frogs, found 
in all the bogs and pools and lakes, however 
high, manage to get up these mountains? 
Surely not by jumping. Such excursions 
through miles of dry brush and boulders 
would be very hard on frogs. Perhaps their 
stringy gelatinous spawn is occasionally en- 

[ 269] 

My First Summer 

tangled or glued on the feet of water birds. 
Anyhow, they are here and in hearty health 
and voice. I like their cheery tronk and 
crink. They take the place of song-birds at 
a pinch. 

August 10. Another of those charming 
exhilarating days that makes the blood dance 
and excites nerve currents that render one 
unweariable and well-nigh immortal. Had 
another view of the broad ice-ploughed 
divide, and gazed again and again at the 
Sierra temple and the great red mountains 
east of the meadows. 

We are camped near the Soda Springs on 
the north side of the river. A hard time we 
had getting the sheep across. They were 
driven into a horseshoe bend and fairly 
crowded off the bank. They seemed willing 
to suffer death rather than risk getting wet, 
though they swim well enough when they 
have to. Why sheep should be so unreason- 
ably afraid of water, I don't know, but they 
do fear it as soon as they are born and per- 

[ 270 ] 

In the Sierra 

haps before. I once saw a lamb only a few 
hours old approach a shallow stream about 
two feet wide and an inch deep, after it had 
walked only about a hundred yards on its life 
journey. All the flock to which it belonged 
had crossed this inch-deep stream, and as the 
mother and her lamb were the last to cross, 
I had a good opportunity to observe them. 
As soon as the flock was out of the way, the 
anxious mother crossed over and called the 
youngster. It walked cautiously to the brink, 
gazed at the water, bleated piteously, and 
refused to venture. The patient mother went 
back to it again and again to encourage it, but 
long without avail. Like the pilgrim on Jor- 
dan's stormy bank it feared to launch away. 
At length gathering its trembling inexpe- 
rienced legs for the mighty effort, throwing 
up its head as if it knew all about drowning, 
and was anxious to keep its nose above water, 
it made the tremendous leap, and landed 
in the middle of the inch-deep stream. It 
seemed astonished to find that, instead of 

[ 271 ] 

My First Summer 

sinking over head and ears, only its toes were 
wet, gazed at the shining water a few sec- 
onds, and then sprang to the shore safe and 
dry through the dreadful adventure. All 
kinds of wild sheep are mountain animals, 
and their descendants' dread of water is not 
easily accounted for. 

August 1 1 . Fine shining weather, with 
a ten minutes' noon thunder-storm and rain. 
Rambling all day getting acquainted with 
the region north of the river. Found a small 
lake and many charming glacier meadows 
embosomed in an extensive forest of the two- 
leaved pine. The forest is growing on broad, 
almost continuous deposits of moraine mate- 
rial, is remarkably even in its growth, and 
the trees are much closer together than in 
any of the fir or pine woods farther down the 
range. The evenness of the growth would 
seem to indicate that the trees are all of the 
same age or nearly so. This regularity has 
probably been in great part the result of fire. 
I saw several large patches and strips of dead 

[ 272 ] 

In the Sierra 

bleached spars, the ground beneath them 
covered with a young even growth. Fire can 
run in these woods, not only because the 
thin bark of the trees is dripping with resin, 
but because the growth is close, and the 
comparatively rich soil produces good crops 
of tall broad-leaved grasses on which tire 
can travel, even when the weather is calm. 
Besides these lire-killed patches there are a 
good many fallen uprooted trees here and 
there, some with the bark and needles still 
on, as if they had lately been blown down in 
some thunder-storm blast. Saw a large black- 
tailed deer, a buck with antlers like the up- 
turned roots of a fallen pine. 

After a long ramble through the dense 
encumbered woods I emerged upon a smooth 
meadow full of sunshine like a lake of light, 
about a mile and a half long, a quarter to 
half a mile wide, and bounded by tall arrowy 
pines. The sod, like that of all the glacier 
meadows hereabouts, is made of silky agros- 
tis and calamagrostis chiefly; their panicles 

[ 273 ] 

My First Summer 

of purple flowers and purple stems, exceed- 
ingly light and airy, seem to float above the 
green plush of leaves like a thin misty cloud, 
while the sod is brightened by several species 
of gentian, potentilla, ivesia, orthocarpus, 


and their corresponding bees and butterflies. 
All the glacier meadows are beautiful, but 
few are so perfect as this one. Compared 
with it the most carefully leveled, licked, 
snipped artificial lawns of pleasure-grounds 
are coarse things. I should like to live here 

[ 274 ] 

In the Sierra 

always. It is so calm and withdrawn while 
open to the universe in full communion with 
everything good. To the north of this glori- 
ous meadow I discovered the camp of some 
Indian hunters. Their fire was still burn- 
ing, but they had not yet returned from the 

From meadow to meadow, every one 
beautiful beyond telling, and from lake to 
lake through groves and belts of arrowy trees, 
I held my way northward toward Mt. Con- 
ness, finding telling beauty everywhere, 
while the encompassing mountains were 
calling " Come.' 1 Hope I may climb them 

August 1 2 . The sky-scenery has changed 
but little so far with the change in elevation. 
Clouds about .05. Glorious pearly cumuli 
tinted with purple of ineffable fineness of 
tone. Moved camp to the side of the glacier 
meadow mentioned above. To let sheep 
trample so divinely fine a place seems bar- 
barous. Fortunately they prefer the succu- 

[ 275 ] 

My First Summer 

lent broad-leaved triticum and other wood- 
land grasses to the silky species of the 
meadows, and therefore seldom bite them 
or set foot on them. 

The shepherd and the Don cannot agree 
about methods of herding. Billy sets his 
dog Jack on the sheep far too often, so the 
Don thinks ; and after some dispute to- 
day, in which the shepherd loudly claimed 
the right to dog the sheep as often as he 
pleased, he started for the plains. Now I 
suppose the care of the sheep will fall on 
me, though Mr. Delaney promises to do 
the herding himself for a while, then re- 
turn to the lowlands and bring another 
shepherd, so as to leave me free to rove as 
I like. 

Had another rich ramble. Pushed north- 
ward beyond the forests to the head of the 
general basin, where traces of glacial action 
are strikingly clear and interesting. The re- 
cesses among the peaks look like quarries, 
so raw and fresh are the moraine chips and 

[ 276] 

In the Sierra 

boulders that strew the ground in Nature's 
glacial workshops. 

Soon after my return to camp we re- 
ceived a visit from an Indian, probably one 
of the hunters whose camp I had discov- 
ered. He came from Mono, he said, with 
others of his tribe, to hunt deer. One that 
he had killed a short distance from here 
he was carrying on his back, its legs tied 
together in an ornamental bunch on his 
forehead. Throwing down his burden, he 
gazed stolidly for a few minutes in silent 
Indian fashion, then cut off eight or ten 
pounds of venison for us, and begged a 
" lill" (little) of everything he saw or could 
think of, flour, bread, sugar, tobacco, 
whiskey, needles, etc. We gave a fair price 
for the meat in flour and sugar and added 
a few needles. A strangely dirty and irreg- 
ular life these dark-eyed, dark-haired, half- 
happy savages lead in this clean wilderness, 
starvation and abundance, deathlike calm, 
indolence, and admirable, indefatigable 

[ 277 ] 

My First Summer 

action succeeding each other in stormy 
rhythm like winter and summer. Two 
things they have that civilized toilers might 
well envy them, pure air and pure water. 
These go far to cover and cure the gross- 
ness of their lives. Their food is mostly 
good berries, pine nuts, clover, lily bulbs, 
wild sheep, antelope, deer, grouse, sage hens, 
and the larvae of ants, wasps, bees, and other 

August. 13.- - Day all sunshine, dawn and 
evening purple, noon gold, no clouds, air 
motionless. Mr. Delaney arrived with two 
shepherds, one of them an Indian. On his 
way up from the plains he left some provi- 
sions at the Portuguese camp on Porcupine 
Creek near our old Yosemite camp, and I set 
out this morning with one of the pack ani- 
mals to fetch them. Arrived at the Porcu- 
pine camp at noon, and might have returned 
to the Tuolumne late in the evening, but 
concluded to stay over night with the Por- 
tuguese shepherds at their pressing invita- 

[ 278 ] 

In the Sierra 

tion. They had sad stories to tell of losses 
from the Yosemite bears, and were so dis- 
couraged they seemed on the point of leav- 
ing the mountains ; for the bears came every 
night and helped themselves to one or sev- 
eral of the flock in spite of all their efforts 
to keep them off. 

I spent the afternoon in a grand ramble 
along the Yosemite walls. From the highest 
of the rocks called the Three Brothers, I en- 
joyed a magnificent view comprehending all 
the upper half of the floor of the valley and 
nearly all the rocks of the walls on both 
sides and at the head, with snowy peaks in 
the background. Saw also the Vernal and 
Nevada Falls, a truly glorious picture, 
rocky strength and permanence combined 
with beauty of plants frail and fine and 
evanescent; water descending in thunder, 
and the same water gliding through mead- 
ows and groves in gentlest beauty. This 
standpoint is about eight thousand feet above 
the sea, or four thousand feet above the floor 

[ 279 ] 

My First Summer 

of the valley, and every tree, though look- 
ing small and feathery, stands in admirable 
clearness, and the shadows they cast are as 
distinct in outline as if seen at a distance 
of a few yards. They appeared even more 
so. No words will ever describe the ex- 
quisite beauty and charm of this mountain 
park Nature's landscape garden at once 
tenderly beautiful and sublime. No wonder 
it draws nature-lovers from all over the 

Glacial action even on this lofty summit 
is plainly displayed. Not only has all the 
lovely valley now smiling in sunshine been 
filled to the brim with ice, but it has been 
deeply overflowed. 

I visited our old Yosemite camp-ground 
on the head of Indian Creek, and found it 
fairly patted and smoothed down with bear- 
tracks. The bears had eaten all the sheep 
that were smothered in the corral, and some 
of the grand animals must have died, for Mr. 

Delaney, before leaving camp, put a large 

[ 280 ] 

In the Sierra 

quantity of poison in the carcasses. All sheep- 
men carry strychnine to kill coyotes, bears, 
and panthers, though neither coyotes nor pan- 
thers are at all numerous in the upper moun- 
tains. The little dog-like wolves are far more 
numerous in the foothill region and on the 
plains, where they tind a better supply of 
food,- -saw only one panther-track above 
eight thousand feet. 

On my return after sunset to the Portu- 
guese camp I found the shepherds greatly 
excited over the behavior of the bears that 
have learned to like mutton. "They are 
getting worse and worse," they lamented. 
Not willing to wait decently until after dark 
for their suppers, they come and kill and 
eat their rill in broad daylight. The evening 
before my arrival, when the two shepherds 
were leisurely driving the flock toward 
camp half an hour before sunset, a hun- 
gry bear came out of the chaparral within 
a few yards of them and shuffled deliber- 
ately toward the flock. " Portuguese Joe," 

[ 281 ] 

My First Summer 

who always carried a gun loaded with buck- 
shot, fired excitedly, threw down his gun, 
fled to the nearest suitable tree, and climbed 
to a safe height without waiting to see the 
effect of his shot. His companion also ran, 
but said that he saw the bear rise on its hind 
legs and throw out its arms as if feeling for 
somebody, and then go into the brush as if 

At another of their camps in this neigh- 
borhood, a bear with two cubs attacked the 
flock before sunset, just as they were ap- 
proaching the corral. Joe promptly climbed 
a tree out of danger, while Antone, rebuking 
his companion for cowardice in abandoning 
his charge, said that he was not going to 
let bears " eat up his sheeps ' in daylight, 
and rushed towards the bears, shouting and 
setting his dog on them. The frightened 
cubs climbed a tree, but the mother ran to 
meet the shepherd and seemed anxious to 
fight. Antone stood astonished for a mo- 
ment, eyeing the oncoming bear, then 

[ 282 ] 

In the Sierra 

turned and fled, closely pursued. Unable 
to reach a suitable tree for climbing, he 
ran to the camp and scrambled up to the 
roof of the little cabin ; the bear followed, 
but did not climb to the roof, only stood 
glaring up at him for a few minutes, threat- 
ening him and holding him in mortal ter- 
ror, then went to her cubs, called them 
down, went to the flock, caught a sheep 
for supper, and vanished in the brush. As 
soon as the bear left the cabin the trem- 
bling Antone begged Joe to show him a 
good safe tree, up which he climbed like 
a sailor climbing a mast, and remained as 
long as he could hold on, the tree being 
almost branchless. After these disastrous ex- 
periences the two shepherds chopped and 
gathered large piles of dry wood and made 
a ring of fire around the corral every night, 
while one with a gun kept watch from a 
comfortable stage built on a neighboring 
pine that commanded a view of the corral. 
This evening the show made by the circle 

[ 283 ] 

My First Summer 

of fire was very fine, bringing out the sur- 
rounding trees in most impressive relief, 
and making the thousands of sheep eyes 
glow like a glorious bed of diamonds. 

August 14. Up to the time I went to 
bed last night all was quiet, though we ex- 
pected the shaggy freebooters every minute. 
They did not come till near midnight, when 
a pair walked boldly to the corral between 
two of the great fires, climbed in, killed 
two sheep and smothered ten, while the 
frightened watcher in the tree did not fire 
a single shot, saying that he was afraid he 
might kill some of the sheep, for the bears 
got into the corral before he got a good 
clear view of them. I told the shepherds 
they should at once move the flock to 
another camp. " Oh, no use, no use/ 3 they 
lamented ; " where we go, the bears go too. 
See my poor dead sheeps, soon all dead. 
No use try another camp. We go down to 
the plains." And as I afterwards learned, 
they were driven out of the mountains a 

[ 284 ] 

In the Sierra 

month before the usual time. Were bears 
much more numerous and destructive, the 
sheep would be kept away altogether. 

It seems strange that bears, so fond of all 
sorts of flesh, running the risks of guns and 
fires and poison, should never attack men 
except in defense of their young. How eas- 
ily and safely a bear could pick us up as we 
lie asleep ! Only wolves and tigers seem to 
have learned to hunt man for food, and per- 
haps sharks and crocodiles. Mosquitoes and 
other insects would, I suppose, devour a help- 
less man in some parts of the world, and so 
might lions, leopards, wolves, hyenas, and 
panthers at times if pressed by hunger, 
but under ordinary circumstances, perhaps, 
only the tiger among land animals may be 
said to be a man-eater, unless we add man 

Clouds as usual about .05. Another glori- 
ous Sierra day, warm, crisp, fragrant, and 
clear. Many of the flowering plants have 
gone to seed, but many others are unfolding 

[ 285 ] 

My First Summer 

their petals every day, and the firs and pines 
are more fragrant than ever. Their seeds are 
nearly ripe, and will soon be flying in the 
merriest flocks that ever spread a wing. 

On the way back to our Tuolumne camp, 
I enjoyed the scenery if possible more than 
when it first came to view. Every feature 
already seems familiar as if I had lived here 
always. I never weary gazing at the won- 
derful Cathedral. It has more individual 
character than any other rock or mountain 
I ever saw, excepting perhaps the Yosemite 
South Dome. The forests, too, seem kindly 
familiar, and the lakes and meadows and 
glad singing streams. I should like to dwell 
with them forever. Here with bread and 
water I should be content. Even if not 
allowed to roam and climb, tethered to a 
stake or tree in some meadow or grove, even 
then I should be content forever. Bathed in 
such beauty, watching the expressions ever 
varying on the faces of the mountains, watch- 
ing the stars, which here have a glory that 

[ 286] 

In the Sierra 

the lowlander never dreams of, watching 
the circling seasons, listening to the songs 
of the waters and winds and birds, would be 
endless pleasure. And what glorious cloud- 
lands I should see, storms and calms, - - a new 
heaven and a new earth every day, aye and 
new inhabitants. And how many visitors I 
should have. I feel sure I should not have 
one dull moment. And why should this ap- 
pear extravagant? It is only common sense, 
a sign of health, genuine, natural, all-awake 
health. One would be at an endless God- 
ful play, and what speeches and music and 
acting and scenery and lights ! sun, moon, 
stars, auroras. Creation just beginning, the 
morning stars " still singing together and all 
the sons of God shouting for joy.' 3 

August 21. Have just returned from a 
fine wild excursion across the range to Mono 
Lake, by way of the Mono or Bloody Canon 
Pass. Mr. Delaney has been good to me all 
summer, lending a helping, sympathizing 

hand at every opportunity, as if my wild 

[ 287 ] 

My First Summer 

notions and rambles and studies were his 
own. He is one of those remarkable Cali- 
fornia men who have been overflowed and 
denuded and remodeled by the excitements 
of the gold fields, like the Sierra landscapes 
by grinding ice, bringing the harder bosses 
and ridges of character into relief, a tall, 
lean, big-boned, big-hearted Irishman, edu- 
cated for a priest in Maynooth College, 
lots of good in him, shining out now and 
then in this mountain light. Recognizing 
my love of wild places, he told me one even- 
ing that I ought to go through Bloody 
Canon, for he was sure I should find it wild 
enough. He had not been there himself, 
he said, but had heard many of his mining 
friends speak of it as the wildest of all the 
Sierra passes. Of course I was glad to go. It 
lies just to the east of our camp and swoops 
down from the summit of the range to the 
edge of the Mono desert, making a descent 
of about four thousand feet in a distance of 
about four miles. It was known and traveled 

[ 288 ] 

In the Sierra 

as a pass by wild animals and the Indians 
long before its discovery by white men in 
the gold year of 1858, as is shown by old 
trails which come together at the head of it. 
The name may have been suggested by the 
red color of the metamorphic slates in which 
the canon abounds, or by the blood stains on 
the rocks from the unfortunate animals that 
were compelled to slide and shuffle over the 
sharp-angled boulders. 

Early in the morning I tied my note-book 
and some bread to my belt, and strode away 
full of eager hope, feeling that I was going 
to have a glorious revel. The glacier mead- 
ows that lay along my way served to soothe 
my morning speed, for the sod was full of 
blue gentians and daisies, kalmia and dwarf 
vaccinium, calling for recognition as old 
friends, and I had to stop many times to 
examine the shining rocks over which the 
ancient glacier had passed with tremendous 
pressure, polishing them so well that they re- 
flected the sunlight like glass in some places, 

[ 289 ] 

My First Summer 

while fine striae, seen clearly through a lens, 
indicated the direction in which the ice had 
flowed. On some of the sloping polished 
pavements abrupt steps occur, showing that 
occasionally large masses of the rock had 
given way before the glacial pressure, as well 
as small particles ; moraines, too, some scat- 
tered, others regular like long curving em- 
bankments and dams, occur here and there, 
giving the general surface of the region a 
young, new-made appearance. I watched the 
gradual dwarfing of the pines as I ascended, 
and the corresponding dwarfing of nearly all 
the rest of the vegetation. On the slopes of 
Mammoth Mountain, to the south of the 
pass, I saw many gaps in the woods reaching 
from the upper edge of the timber-line down 
to the level meadows, where avalanches of 
snow had descended, sweeping away every 
tree in their paths as well as the soil they 
were growing in, leaving the bed-rock bare. 
The trees are nearly all uprooted, but a few 
that had been extremely well anchored in 

[ 290 ] 

In the Sierra 

clefts of the rock were broken off near the 
ground. It seems strange at first sight that 
trees that had been allowed to grow for a 
century or more undisturbed should in their 
old age be thus swished away at a stroke. 
Such avalanches can only occur under rare 
conditions of weather and snowfall. No 
doubt on some positions of the mountain 
slopes the inclination and smoothness of the 
surface is such that avalanches must occur 
every winter, or even after every heavy snow- 
storm, and of course no trees or even bushes 
can grow in their channels. I noticed a few 
clean-swept slopes of this kind. The up- 
rooted trees that had grown in the pathway of 
what might be called "century avalanches' 
were piled in windrows, and tucked snugly 
against the wall-trees of the gaps> heads down- 
ward, excepting a few that were carried out 
into the open ground of the meadows, where 
the heads of the avalanches had stopped. 
Young pines, mostly the two-leaved and the 
white-barked, are already springing up in 

[ 291 ] 

My First Summer 

these cleared gaps. It would be interesting 
to ascertain the age of these saplings, for thus 
we should gain a fair approximation to the 
year that the great avalanches occurred. Per- 
haps most or all of them occurred the same 
winter. How glad I should be if free to pur- 
sue such studies ! 

Near the summit at the head of the pass 
I found a species of dwarf willow lying 
perfectly flat on the ground, making a nice, 
soft, silky gray carpet, not a single stem 
or branch more than three inches high ; but 
the catkins, which are now nearly ripe, stand 
erect and make a close, nearly regular gray 
growth, being larger than all the rest of the 
plants. Some of these interesting dwarfs have 
only one catkin, willow bushes reduced 
to their lowest terms. I found patches of 
dwarf vaccinium also forming smooth car- 
pets, closely pressed to the ground or against 
the sides of stones, and covered with round 
pink flowers in lavish abundance as if they 

had fallen from the sky like hail. A little 

[ 292 ] 

In the Sierra 

higher, almost at the very head of the pass, 
I found the blue arctic daisy and purple- 
flowered bryanthus, the mountain's own 
darlings, gentle mountaineers face to face 
with the sky, kept safe and warm by a thou- 
sand miracles, seeming always the finer and 
purer the wilder and stormier their homes. 
The trees, tough and resiny, seem unable to 
go a step farther ; but up and up, far above the 
tree-line, these tender plants climb, cheerily 
spreading their gray and pink carpets right 
up to the very edges of the snow-banks in 
deep hollows and shadows. Here, too, is the 
familiar robin, tripping on the flowery lawns, 
bravely singing the same cheery song I first 
heard when a boy in Wisconsin newly arrived 
from old Scotland. In this fine company 
sauntering enchanted, taking no heed of 
time, I at length entered the gate of the 
pass, and the huge rocks began to close 
around me in all their mysterious impres- 
siveness. Just then I was startled by a lot 
of queer, hairy, muffled creatures coming 

[ 293 ] 

My First Summer 

shuffling, shambling, wallowing toward me 
as if they had no bones in their bodies. Had 
I discovered them while they were yet a 
good way off, I should have tried to avoid 
them. What a picture they made contrasted 
with the others I had just been admiring. 
When I came up to them, I found that they 
were only a band of Indians from Mono on 
their way to Yosemite for a load of acorns. 
They were wrapped in blankets made of 
the skins of sage-rabbits. The dirt on some 
of the faces seemed almost old enough and 
thick enough to have a geological signifi- 
cance ; some were strangely blurred and di- 
vided into sections by seams and wrinkles 
that looked like cleavage joints, and had a 

worn abraded look as if thev had lain ex- 


posed to the weather for ages. I tried to pass 
them without stopping, but they would n't 
let me; forming a dismal circle about me, 
I was closely besieged while they begged 
whiskey or tobacco, and it was hard to con- 
vince them that I had n't any. How glad I 

[ 294 ] 

In the Sierra 

was to get away from the gray, grim crowd 
and see them vanish down the trail! Yet it 
seems sad to feel such desperate repulsion 
from one's fellow beings, however degraded. 
To prefer the society of squirrels and wood- 
chucks to that of our own species must surely 
be unnatural. So with a fresh breeze and a 
hill or mountain between us I must wish 
them Godspeed and try to pray and sing with 
Burns, " It 's coming yet, for a' that, that man 
to man, the warld o'er, shall brothers be for 
a' that." 

How the day passed I hardly know. By 
the map I have come only about ten or 
twelve miles, though the sun is already low 
in the west, showing how long I must 
have lingered, observing, sketching, taking 
notes among the glaciated rocks and mo- 
raines and Alpine flower-beds. 

At sundown the sombre crags and peaks 
were inspired with the ineffable beauty of 
the alpenglow, and a solemn, awful still- 
ness hushed everything in the landscape. 

[ 295 ] 

My First Summer 

Then I crept into a hollow by the side of 
a small lake near the head of the canon, 
smoothed a sheltered spot, and gathered a 
few pine tassels for a bed. After the short 
twilight began to fade I kindled a sunny 
fire, made a tin cupful of tea, and lay down 
to watch the stars. Soon the night-wind 
began to flow from the snowy peaks over- 
head, at first only a gentle breathing, then 
gaining strength, in less than an hour rum- 
bled in massive volume something like a 
boisterous stream in a boulder-choked chan- 
nel, roaring and moaning down the canon 
as if the work it had to do was tremen- 
dously important and fateful ; and mingled 
with these storm tones were those of the 
waterfalls on the north side of the canon, 
now sounding distinctly, now smothered 
by the heavier cataracts of air, making a 
glorious psalm of savage wildness. My fire 
squirmed and struggled as if ill at ease, for 
though in a sheltered nook, detached masses 
of icy wind often fell like icebergs on top 

[ 296 ] 

In the Sierra 

of it, scattering sparks and coals, so that 
I had to keep well back to avoid being 
burned. But the big resiny roots and knots 
of the dwarf pine could neither be beaten 
out nor blown away, and the flames, now 
rushing up in long lances, now flattened 
and twisted on the rocky ground, roared 
as if trying to tell the storm stories of the 
trees they belonged to, as the light given 
out was telling the story of the sunshine 
they had gathered in centuries of summers. 
The stars shone clear in the strip of sky 
between the huge dark cliffs ; and as I lay 
recalling the lessons of the day, suddenly 
the full moon looked down over the canon 
wall, her face apparently filled with eager 
concern, which had a startling effect, as if 
she had left her place in the sky and had 
come down to gaze on me alone, like a 
person entering one's bedroom. It was hard 
to realize that she was in her place in the 
sky, and was looking abroad on half the 
globe, land and sea, mountains, plains, lakes, 

[ 297 ] 

My First Summer 

rivers, oceans, ships, cities with their myriads 
of inhabitants sleeping and waking, sick and 
well. No, she seemed to be just on the rim 
of Bloody Canon and looking only at me. 
This was indeed getting near to Nature. I 
remember watching the harvest moon ris- 
ing above the oak trees in Wisconsin appar- 
ently as big as a cart-wheel and not farther 
than half a mile distant. With these excep- 
tions I might say I never before had seen 
the moon, and this night she seemed so full 
of life and so near, the effect was marvel- 
ously impressive and made me forget the 
Indians, the great black rocks above me, and 
the wild uproar of the winds and waters 
making their way down the huge jagged 
gorge. Of course I slept but little and gladly 
welcomed the dawn over the Mono Desert. 
By the time I had made a cupful of tea the 
sunbeams were pouring through the canon, 
and I set forth, gazing eagerly at the tre- 
mendous walls of red slates savagely hacked 
and scarred and apparently ready to fall in 

[ 298 ] 

In the Sierra 

avalanches great enough to choke the pass 
and fill up the chain of lakelets. But soon its 
beauties came to view, and I bounded lightly 
from .rock to rock, admiring the polished 
bosses shining in the slant sunshine with 
glorious effect in the general roughness of 
moraines and avalanche taluses, even toward 
the head of the canon near the highest foun- 
tains of the ice. Here, too, are most of the 
lowly plant people seen yesterday on the 
other side of the divide now opening their 
beautiful eyes. None could fail to glory in 
Nature's tender care for them in so wild a 
place. The little ouzel is flitting from rock 
to rock along the rapid swirling Canon 
Creek, diving for breakfast in icy pools, and 
merrily singing as if the huge rugged ava- 
lanche-swept gorge was the most delightful 
of all its mountain homes. Besides a high 
fall on the north wall of the caiion, appar- 
ently coming direct from the sky, there are 
many narrow cascades, bright silvery ribbons 
zigzagging down the red cliffs, tracing the 

[ 299 ] 

My First Summer 

diagonal cleavage joints of the metamorphic 
slates, now contracted and out of sight, now 
leaping from ledge to ledge in filmy sheets 
through which the sunbeams sift. And on 
the main Canon Creek, to which all these 
are tributary, is a series of small falls, cas- 
cades, and rapids extending all the way down 
to the foot of the canon, interrupted only by 
the lakes in which the tossed and beaten 
waters rest. One of the finest of the cascades 
is outspread on the face of a precipice, its 
waters separated into ribbon-like strips, and 
woven into a diamond-like pattern by trac- 
ing the cleavage joints of the rock, while 
tufts of bryanthus, grass, sedge, saxifrage 
form beautiful fringes. Who could imagine 
beauty so fine in so savage a place? Gardens 
are blooming in all sorts of nooks and hol- 
lows, at the head alpine eriogonums, eri- 
gerons, saxifrages, gentians, cowania, bush 
primula ; in the middle region larkspur, 
columbine, orthocarpus, castilleia, harebell, 
epilobium, violets, mints, yarrow ; near the 

[ 300 ] 

In the Sierra 

foot sunflowers, lilies, brier rose, iris, Ionic- 
era, clematis. 

One of the smallest of the cascades, which 
I name the Bower Cascade, is in the lower 
region of the pass, where the vegetation is 
snowy and luxuriant. Wild rose and dog- 
wood form dense masses overarching the 
stream, and out of this bower the creek, 
grown strong with many indashing tribu- 
taries, leaps forth into the light, and de- 
scends in a fluted curve thick-sown with crisp 
flashing spray. At the foot of the canon 
there is a lake formed in part at least by the 
damming of the stream by a terminal mo- 
raine. The three other lakes in the canon 
are in basins eroded from the solid rock, 
where the pressure of the glacier was great- 
est, and the most resisting portions of the 
basin rims are beautifully, tellingly polished. 
Below Moraine Lake at the foot of the 
canon there are several old lake-basins lying 
between the large lateral moraines which 
extend out into the desert. These basins are 

My First Summer 

now completely filled up by the material 
carried in by the streams, and changed to 
dry sandy flats covered mostly by grass and 
artemisia and sun-loving flowers. All these 
lower lake-basins were evidently formed by 
terminal moraine dams deposited where the 
receding glacier had lingered during short 
periods of less waste, or greater snowfall, or 

Looking up the canon from the warm 
sunny edge of the Mono plain my morning 
ramble seems a dream, so great is the change 
in the vegetation and climate. The lilies on 
the bank of Moraine Lake are higher than 
my head, and the sunshine is hot enough for 
palms. Yet the snow round the arctic gar- 
dens at the summit of the pass is plainly visi- 
ble, only about four miles away, and between 
lie specimen zones of all the principal cli- 
mates of the globe. In little more than an 
hour one may swoop down from winter to 
summer, from an arctic to a torrid region, 
through as great changes of climate as one 

[ 302 ] 

In the Sierra 

would encounter in traveling from Labrador 
to Florida. 

The Indians I had met near the head of 
the canon had camped at the foot of it the 
night before they made the ascent, and I 
found their lire still smoking on the side of 
a small tributary stream near Moraine Lake; 
and on the edge of what is called the Mono 
Desert, four or five miles from the lake, I 
came to a patch of elymus, or wild rye, 
growing in magnificent waving clumps six 
or eight feet high, bearing heads six to eight 
inches long. The crop was ripe, and Indian 
women were gathering the grain in baskets 
by bending down large handfuls, beating out 
the seed, and fanning it in the wind. The 
grains are about five eighths of an inch long, 
dark-colored and sweet. I fancy the bread 
made from it must be as good as wheat bread. 
A fine squirrelish employment this wild grain 
gathering seems, and the women were evi- 
dently enjoying it, laughing and chattering 
and looking almost natural, though most In- 

[ 303 ] 

My First Summer 

dians I have seen are not a whit more natural 
in their lives than we civilized whites. Per- 
haps if I knew them better I should like 
them better. The worst thing about them is 
their uncleanliness. Nothing truly wild is un- 
clean. Down on the shore of Mono Lake I saw 
a number of their flimsy huts on the banks of 
streams that dash swiftly into that dead sea, 
- mere brush tents where they lie and eat 
at their ease. Some of the men were feast- 
ing on buffalo berries, lying beneath the tall 
bushes now red with fruit. The berries are 
rather insipid, but they must needs be whole- 
some, since for days and weeks the Indians, it 
is said, eat nothing else. In the season they in 
like manner depend chiefly on the fat larva? 
of a fly that breeds in the salt water of the 
lake, or on the big fat corrugated caterpil- 
lars of a species of silkworm that feeds on the 
leaves of the yellow pine. Occasionally a 
grand rabbit-drive is organized and hundreds 
are slain with clubs on the lake shore, chased 
and frightened into a dense crowd by dogs, 

[ 304 ] 

In the Sierra 

boys, girls, men and women, and rings of sage 
brush fire, when of course they are quickly 
killed. The skins are made into blankets. In 
the autumn the more enterprising of the 
hunters bring in a good many deer, and rarely 
a wild sheep from the high peaks. Antelopes 
used to be abundant on the desert at the base 
of the interior mountain-ranges. Sage hens, 
grouse, and squirrels help to vary their wild 
diet of worms; pine nuts also from the small 
interesting Pinus monophylla, and good bread 
and good mush are made from acorns and wild 
rye. Strange to say, they seem to like the lake 
larvae best of all. Long windrows are washed 
up on the shore, which they gather and dry 
like grain for winter use. It is said that wars; 
on account of encroachments on each other's 
worm-grounds, are of common occurrence 
among the various tribes and families. Each 
claims a certain marked portion of the shore. 
The pine nuts are delicious,- -large quanti- 
ties are gathered every autumn. The tribes 
of the west flank of the range trade acorns 

[ 305 ] 

My First Summer 

for worms and pine nuts. The squaws carry 
immense loads on their backs across the 
rough passes and down the range, making 
journeys of about forty or fifty miles each 

The desert around the lake is surprisingly 

">,' M ,>^ 

*.- ..V , ;' 



flowery. In many places among the sage 
bushes I saw mentzelia, abronia, aster, big- 
elovia, and gilia, all of which seemed to 
enjoy the hot sunshine. The abronia, in 
particular, is a delicate, fragrant, and most 
charming plant. 

Opposite the mouth of the canon a range 

[ 306 ] 

In the Sierra 

of volcanic cones extends southward from 
the lake, rising abruptly out of the desert 
like a chain of mountains. The largest of 
the cones are about twenty-five hundred feet 
high above the lake level, have well-formed 
craters, and all of them are evidently compara- 

ffifc , '' 



tively recent additions to the landscape. At a 
distance of a few miles they look like heaps 
of loose ashes that have never been blest by 
either rain or snow, but, for a' that and a' 
that, yellow pines are climbing their gray 
slopes, trying to clothe them and give 
beauty for ashes. A country of wonderful 

[ 307 ] 

My First Summer 

contrasts. Hot deserts bounded by snow- 
laden mountains, - - cinders and ashes scat- 
tered on glacier-polished pavements, frost 
and fire working together in the making 
of beauty. In the lake are several volcanic 
islands, which show that the waters were 
once mingled with fire. 

Glad to get back to the green side of the 
mountains, though I have greatly enjoyed the 
gray east side and hope to see more of it. 
Reading these grand mountain manuscripts 
displayed through every vicissitude of heat 
and cold, calm and storm, upheaving volca- 
noes and down-grinding glaciers, we see that 
everything in Nature called destruction must 
be creation, a change from beauty to 

Our glacier meadow camp north of the 
Soda Springs seems more beautiful every day. 
The grass covers all the ground though the 
leaves are thread-like in fineness, and in walk- 
ing on the sod it seems like a plush carpet 
of marvelous richness and softness, and the 


Sierra Range from Mono Crater 

In the Sierra 

purple panicles brushing against one's feet are 

not felt. This is a typical glacier meadow, 
occupying the basin of a vanished lake, very 
definitely bounded by walls of the arrowy 
two-leaved pines drawn up in handsome or- 
derly array like soldiers on parade. There are 
many other meadows of the same kind here- 
abouts imbedded in the woods. The main big 
meadows along the river are the same in gen- 
eral and extend with but little interruption for 
ten or twelve miles, but none I have seen are so 
finely finished and perfect as this one. It is 
richer in flowering plants than the prairies of 
Wisconsin and Illinois were when in all their 
wild glory. The showy flowers are mostly 
three species of gentian, a purple and yellow 
orthocarpus, a golden-rod or two, a small blue 
pentstemon almost like a gentian, potentilla, 
ivesia, pedicularis, white violet, kalmia, and 
bryanthus. There are no coarse weedy plants. 
Through this flowery lawn flows a stream si- 
lently gliding, swirling, slipping as if careful 
not to make the slightest noise. It is only 

[ 309 ] 

My First Summer 

about three feet wide in most places, widen ing 
here and there into pools six or eight feet in 
diameter with no apparent current, the banks 
bossily rounded by the down-curving mossy 
sod, grass panicles over-leaning like minia- 
ture pine trees, and rugs of bryanthus spread- 
ing here and there over sunken boulders. At 
the foot of the meadow the stream, rich with 
the juices of the plants it has refreshed, sings 
merrily down over shelving rock ledges 
on its way to the Tuolumne River. The 
sublime, massive Mt. Dana and its com- 
panions, green, red, and white, loom impres- 
sively above the pines along the eastern 
horizon; a range or spur of gray rugged 
granite crags and mountains on the north; 
the curiously crested and battlemented Mt. 
Hoffman on the west; and the Cathedral 
Range on the south with its grand Cathe- 
dral Peak, Cathedral Spires, Unicorn Peak, 
and several others, gray and pointed, or 
massively rounded. 

August 22. Clouds none, cool west 


In the Sierra 

wind, slight hoarfrost on the meadows. 
Carlo is missing ; have been seeking him 
all day. In the thick woods between camp 
and the river, among tall grass and fallen 
pines, I discovered a baby fawn. At first it 
seemed inclined to come to me; but when 
I tried to catch it, and got within a rod 
or two, it turned and walked softly away, 
choosing its steps like a cautious, stealthy, 
hunting cat. Then, as if suddenly called or 
alarmed, it began to buck and run like a 
grown deer, jumping high above the fallen 
trunks, and was soon out of sight. Possibly 
its mother may have called it, but I did 
not hear her. I don't think fawns ever leave 
the home thicket or follow their mothers 
until they are called or frightened. I am 
distressed about Carlo. There are several 
other camps and dogs not many miles from 
here, and I still hope to find him. He never 
left me before. Panthers are very rare here, 
and I don't think any of these cats would 
dare touch him. He knows bears too well 

My First Summer 

to be caught by them, and as for Indians, 
they don't want him. 

August 23. Cool, bright day, hinting 
Indian summer. Mr. Delaney has gone to 
the Smith Ranch, on the Tuolumne below 
Hetch-Hetchy Valley, thirty-five or forty 
miles from here, so I '11 be alone for a week 
or more,- -not really alone, for Carlo has 
come back. He was at a camp a few miles 
to the northwestward. He looked sheep- 
ish and ashamed when I asked him where 
he had been and why he had gone away 
without leave. He is now trying to get me 
to caress him and show signs of forgiveness. 
A wondrous wise dog. A great load is off 
my mind. I could not have left the moun- 
tains without him. He seems very glad to 
get back to me. 

Rose and crimson sunset, and soon after 
the stars appeared the moon rose in most 
impressive majesty over the top of Mt. Dana. 
I sauntered up the meadow in the white 
light. The jet-black tree-shadows were so 

[ 312 ] 

In the Sierra 

wonderfully distinct and substantial looking, 
I often stepped high in crossing them, taking 
them for black charred logs. 

August 24. Another charming day, 
warm and calm soon after sunrise, clouds 
only about .01, faint, silky cirrus wisps, 
scarcely visible. Slight frost, Indian summer- 
ish, the mountains growing softer in out- 
line and dreamy looking, their rough angles 
melted off, apparently. Sky at evening with 
fine, dark, subdued purple, almost like the 
evening purple of the San Joaquin plains 
in settled weather. The moon is now gazing 
over the summit of Dana. Glorious exhil- 
arating air. I wonder if in all the world 
there is another mountain range of equal 
height blessed with weather so fine, and so 
openly kind and hospitable and approach- 

August 25. Cool as usual in the morn- 
ing, quickly changing to the ordinary serene 
generous warmth and brightness. Toward 
evening the west wind was cool and sent us 

My First Summer 

to the camp-lire. Of all Nature's flowery 
carpeted mountain halls none can be finer 
than this glacier meadow. Bees and butter- 
flies seem as abundant as ever. The birds are 
still here, showing no sign of leaving for win- 
ter quarters though the frost must bring them 
to mind. For my part I should like to stay 
here all winter or all my life or even all 

August 26. - -Frost this morning; all the 
meadow grass and some of the pine needles 
sparkling w r ith irised crystals,- -flowers of 
light. Large picturesque clouds, craggy like 
rocks, are piled on Mt. Dana, reddish in color 
like the mountain itself; the sky for a few 
degrees around the horizon is pale purple, 
into which the pines dip their spires with 
fine effect. Spent the day as usual looking 
about me, watching the changing lights, the 
ripening autumn colors of the grass, seeds, 
late-blooming gentians, asters, golden-rods; 
parting the meadow grass here and there and 
looking down into the underworld of mosses 

In the Sierra 

and liverworts ; watching the busy ants and 
beetles and other small people at work and 
play like squirrels and bears in a forest; 
studying the formation of lakes and meadows, 
moraines, mountain sculpture ; making small 
beginnings in these directions, charmed by 
the serene beauty of everything. 

The day has been extra cloudy, though 
bright on the whole, for the clouds were 
brighter than common. Clouds about .15, 
which in Switzerland would be considered 
extra clear. Probably more free sunshine falls 
on this majestic range than on any other in 
the world I 've ever seen or heard of. It has 
the brightest weather, brightest glacier-pol- 
ished rocks, the greatest abundance of irised 
spray from its glorious waterfalls, the bright- 
est forests of silver firs and silver pines, more 
star-shine, moonshine, and perhaps more crys- 
tal-shine than any other mountain chain, and 
its countless mirror lakes, having more light 
poured into them, glow and spangle most. 
And how glorious the shining after the short 

My First Summer 

summer showers and after frosty nights when 
the morning sunbeams are pouring through 
the crystals on the grass and pine needles, and 
how ineffably spiritually fine is the morning- 
glow on the mountain-tops and the alpenglow 
of evening. Well may the Sierra be named, not 
the Snowy Range, but the Range of Light. 

August 27. Clouds only .05,- -mostly 
white and pink cumuli over the Hoffman 
spur towards evening, frosty morning. 
Crystals grow in marvelous beauty and perfec- 
tion of form these still nights, every one built 
as carefully as the grandest holiest temple, as 
if planned to endure forever. 

Contemplating the lace-like fabric of 
streams outspread over the mountains, we are 
reminded that every thing is flowing going 
somewhere, animals and so-called lifeless 
rocks as well as water. Thus the snow flows 
fast or slow in grand beauty-making glaciers 
and avalanches; the air in majestic floods 
carrying minerals, plant leaves, seeds, spores, 
with streams of music and fragrance ; water 

In the Sierra 

streams carrying rocks both in solution and 
in the form of mud particles, sand, pebbles, 
and boulders. Rocks flow from volcanoes 
like water from springs, and animals flock 
together and flow in currents modified by 
stepping, leaping, gliding, flying, swimming, 
etc. While the stars go streaming through 
space pulsed on and on forever like blood 
globules in Nature's warm heart. 

August 28. The dawn a glorious song 
of color. Sky absolutely cloudless. A fine 
crop of hoarfrost. Warm after ten o'clock. 
The gentians don't mind the first frost though 
their petals seem so delicate ; they close every 
night as if going to sleep, and awake fresh 
as ever in the morning sun-glory. The grass 
is a shade browner since last week, but there 
are no nipped wilted plants of any sort as far 
as I have seen. Butterflies and the grand host 
of smaller flies are benumbed every night, 
but they hover and dance in the sunbeams 
over the meadows before noon with no ap- 
parent lack of playful, joyful life. Soon they 

[ 317 ] 

My First Summer 

must all fall like petals in an orchard, dry 
and wrinkled, not a wing of all the mighty 
host left to tingle the air. Nevertheless 
new myriads will arise in the spring, rejoic- 
ing, exulting, as if laughing cold death to 

August 29. - - Clouds about .05, slight 
frost. Bland serene Indian summer weather. 
Have been gazing all day at the moun- 
tains, watching the changing lights. More 
and more plainly are they clothed with light 
as a garment, white tinged with pale purple, 
palest during the midday hours, richest in 
the morning and evening. Everything seems 
consciously peaceful, thoughtful, faithfully 
waiting God's will. 

August 30. This day just like yesterday. 
A few clouds motionless and apparently with 
no work to do beyond looking beautiful. 
Frost enough for crystal building, glorious 
fields of ice-diamonds destined to last but a 
night. How lavish is Nature building, pull- 
ing down, creating, destroying, chasing every 

In the Sierra 

material particle from form to form, ever 
changing, ever beautiful. 

Mr. Delaney arrived this morning. Felt 
not a trace of loneliness while he was gone. On 
the contrary, I never enjoyed grander com- 
pany. The whole wilderness seems to be alive 
and familiar, full of humanity. The very 
stones seem talkative,sympathetic,brotherly. 
No wonder when we consider that we all 
have the same Father and Mother. 

August 31. Clouds .05. Silky cirrus 
wisps and fringes so fine they almost escape 
notice. Frost enough for another crop of 
crystals on the meadows but none on the 
forests. The gentians, golden-rods,asters, etc., 
don't seem to feel it ; neither petals nor leaves 
are touched though they seem so tender. 
Every day opens and closes like a flower, 
noiseless, effortless. Divine peace glows on 
all the majestic landscape like the silent en- 
thusiastic joy that sometimes transfigures a 
noble human face. 

September i.- -Clouds .05,- -motionless, 

My First Summer 

of no particular color, - - ornaments with no 
hint of rain or snow in them. Day all calm, 
another grand throb of Nature's heart, rip- 
ening late flowers and seeds for next summer, 
full of life and the thoughts and plans of life 
to come, and full of ripe and ready death 
beautiful as life, telling divine wisdom and 
goodness and immortality. Have been up Mt. 
Dana, making haste to see as much as I can 
now that the time of departure is drawing 
nigh. The views from the summit reach far 
and wide, eastward over the Mono Lake and 
Desert; mountains beyond mountains look- 
ing strangely barren and gray and bare like 
heaps of ashes dumped from the sky. The 
lake, eight or ten miles in diameter, shines 
like a burnished disk of silver, no trees about 
its gray, ashy, cindery shores. Looking west- 
ward, the glorious forests are seen sweeping 
over countless ridges and hills, girdling 
domes and subordinate mountains, fringing 
in long curving lines the dividing ridges, and 
filling every hollow where the glaciers have 

[ 320 ] 

In the Sierra 

spread soil-beds however rocky or smooth. 
Looking northward and southward along the 
axis of the range, you see the glorious array 
of high mountains, crags and peaks and snow, 
the fountain-heads of rivers that are flowing 
west to the sea through the famous Golden 
Gate, and east to hot salt lakes and deserts to 
evaporate and hurry back into the sky. In- 
numerable lakes are shining like eyes beneath 
heavy rock brows, bare or tree fringed, or im- 
bedded in black forests. Meadow openings 
in the woods seem as numerous as the lakes 
or perhaps more so. Far up the moraine- 
covered slopes and among crumbling rocks 
I found many delicate hardy plants, some of 
them still in flower. The best gains of this 
trip were the lessons of unity and inter-re- 
lation of all the features of the landscape 
revealed in general views. The lakes and 
meadows are located just where the ancient 
glaciers bore heaviest at the foot of the steep- 
est parts of their channels, and of course their 
longest diameters are approximately parallel 

[ 321 ] 

My First Summer 

with each other and with the belts of forests 
growing in long curving lines on the lateral 
and medial moraines, and in broad outspread- 
ing fields on the terminal beds deposited to- 
ward the end of the ice period when the 
glaciers were receding. The domes, ridges, 
and spurs also show the influence of glacial 
action in their forms, which approximately 
seem to be the forms of greatest strength with 
reference to the stress of oversweeping, past- 
sweeping, down-grinding ice-streams; sur- 
vivals of the most resisting masses, or those 
most favorably situated. How interesting 
everything is ! Every rock, mountain, stream, 
plant, lake, lawn, forest, garden, bird, beast, 
insect seems to call and invite us to come 
and learn something of its history and re- 
lationship. But shall the poor ignorant 
scholar be allowed to try the lessons they of- 
fer ? It seems too great and good to be true. 
Soon I'll be going to the lowlands. The 
bread camp must soon be removed. If I had 
a few sacks of flour,an axe, and some matches, 

[ 322 ] 

In the Sierra 

I would build a cabin of pine logs, pile up 
plenty of firewood about it and stay all winter 
to see the grand fertile snow-storms, watch 
the birds and animals that winter thus high, 
how they live, how the forests look snow- 


; V V 


.S'-.-/' ' ' ..'" ' "-'. . ; . 


laden or buried, and how the avalanches look 
and sound on their way down the mountains. 
But now I '11 have to go, for there is nothing 
to spare in the way of provisions. I '11 surely 
be back, however, surely I '11 be back. No 

[ 323 ] 

My First Summer 

other place has ever so overwhelmingly at- 
tracted me as this hospitable, Godful wilder- 

September 2. A grand, red, rosy, crim- 
son day, a perfect glory of a day. What 
it means I don't know. It is the first marked 
change from tranquil sunshine with purple 
mornings and evenings and still, white noons. 
There is nothing like a storm, however. 
The average cloudiness only about .08, and 
there is no sighing in the woods to betoken 
a big weather change. The sky was red in 
the morning and evening, the color not dif- 
fused like the ordinary purple glow, but 
loaded upon separate well-defined clouds 
that remained motionless, as if anchored 
around the jagged mountain-fenced hori- 
zon. A deep-red cap, bluffy around its sides, 
lingered a long time on Mt. Dana and Mt. 
Gibbs, drooping so low as to hide most of 
their bases, but leaving Dana's round sum- 
mit free, which seemed to float separate 
and alone over the big crimson cloud. Mam- 

[ 324 ] 

In the Sierra 

moth Mountain, to the south of Gibbs and 
Bloody Canon, striped and spotted with 
snow-banks and clumps of dwarf pine, was 
also favored with a glorious crimson cap, in 
the making of which there was no trace of 
economy, - - a huge bossy pile colored with 
a perfect passion of crimson, that seemed 
important enough to be sent off to burn 
among the stars in majestic independence. 
One is constantly reminded of the infinite 
lavishness and fertility of Nature, - -inex- 
haustible abundance amid what seems enor- 
mous waste. And yet when we look into 
any of her operations that lie within reach 
of our minds, we learn that no particle of 
her material is wasted or worn out. It is 
eternally flowing from use to use, beauty 
to yet higher beauty ; and we soon cease to 
lament waste and death, and rather rejoice 
and exult in the imperishable, unspendable 
wealth of the universe, and faithfully watch 
and wait the reappearance of everything 
that melts and fades and dies about us, feel- 

[ 325 ] 

My First Summer 

ing sure that its next appearance will be 
better and more beautiful than the last. 

I watched the growth of these red-lands 
of the sky as eagerly as if new mountain 
ranges were being built. Soon the group of 
snowy peaks in whose recesses lie the high- 
est fountains of the Tuolumne, Merced, and 
North Fork of the San Joaquin were deco- 
rated with majestic colored clouds like those 
already described, but more complicated, 
to correspond with the grand fountain-heads 
of the rivers they overshadowed. The Sierra 
Cathedral, to the south of camp, was over- 
shadowed like Sinai. Never before noticed 
so fine a union of rock and cloud in form 
and color and substance, drawing earth and 
sky together as one ; and so human is it, 
every feature and tint of color goes to one's 
heart, and we shout, exulting in wdld en- 
thusiasm as if all the divine show were our 
own. More and more, in a place like this, 
we feel ourselves part of wild Nature, kin 
to everything. Spent most of the day high 

[ 326] 

In the Sierra 

up on the north rim of the valley, com- 
manding views of the clouds in all their 
red glory spreading their wonderful light 
over all the basin, while the rocks and trees 
and small Alpine plants at my feet seemed 
hushed and thoughtful, as if they also were 
conscious spectators of the glorious new 

Here and there, as I plodded farther and 
higher, I came to small garden-patches and 
ferneries just where one would naturally de- 
cide that no plant-creature could possibly 
live. But, as in the region about the head 
of Mono Pass and the top of Dana, it was 
in the wildest, highest places that the most 
beautiful and tender and enthusiastic plant- 
people were found. Again and again, as I 
lingered over these charming plants, I said, 
How came you here ? How do you live 
through the winter ? Our roots, they ex- 
plained, reach far down the joints of the 
summer-warmed rocks, and beneath our fine 
snow mantle killing frosts cannot reach us, 

[ 327 ] 

My First Summer 

while we sleep away the dark half of the 
year dreaming of spring. 

Ever since I was allowed entrance into 


these mountains I have been looking for 
cassiope, said to be the most beautiful and 
best loved of the heathworts, but, strange to 
say, I have not yet found it. On my high 
mountain walks I keep muttering, " Cas- 
siope, cassiope/ 3 This name, as Calvinists 
say, is driven in upon me, notwithstanding 
the glorious host of plants that come about 
me uncalled as soon as I show myself. Cas- 
siope seems the highest name of all the 
small mountain-heath people, and as if con- 
scious of her worth, keeps out of my way. 
I must find her soon, if at all this year. 

September 4. - - All the vast sky dome is 
clear, filled only with mellow Indian sum- 
mer light. The pine and hemlock and fir 
cones are nearly ripe and are falling fast 
from morning to night, cut off and gath- 
ered by the busy squirrels. Almost all the 
plants have matured their seeds, their sum- 

[ 328 ] 

In the Sierra 

mer work done ; and the summer crop of 
birds and deer will soon be able to follow 
their parents to the foothills and plains at 
the approach of winter, when the snow be- 
gins to fly. 

September 5. No clouds. Weather cool, 
calm, bright as if no great thing was yet ready 
to be done. Have been sketching the North 
Tuolumne Church. The sunset gloriously 

September 6. Still another perfectly 
cloudless day, purple evening and morning, 
all the middle hours one mass of pure serene 
sunshine. Soon after sunrise the air grew 
warm, and there was no wind. One naturally 
halted to see what Nature intended to do. 
There is a suggestion of real Indian summer 
in the hushed, brooding, faintly hazy weather. 
The yellow atmosphere, though thin, is still 
plainly of the same general character as that 
of eastern Indian summer. The peculiar mel- 
lowness is perhaps in part caused by myriads 
of ripe spores adrift in the sky. 

[ 329 ] 

My First Summer 

Mr. Delaney now keeps up a solemn talk 
about the need of getting away from these 
high mountains, telling sad stories of flocks 
that perished in storms that broke suddenly 
into the midst of fine innocent weather like 
this we are now enjoying. "In no case,' 3 
said he, " will I venture to stay so high and 
far back in the mountains as we now are 
later than the middle of this month, no mat- 
ter how warm and sunny it may be.' : He 
would move the flock slowly at first, a few 
miles a day until the Yosemite Creek basin 
was reached and crossed, then while linger- 
ing in the heavy pine woods should the 
weather threaten he could hurry down to 
the foothills, where the snow never falls deep 
enough to smother a sheep. Of course I am 
anxious to see as much of the wilderness as 
possible in the few days left me, and I say 
again,- -May the good time come when I 
can stay as long as I like with plenty of bread, 
far and free from trampling flocks, though 
I may well be thankful for this generous food- 

[ 330 ] 

In the Sierra 

ful inspiring summer. Anyhow we never 
know where we must go nor what guides we 
are to get, men, storms, guardian angels, 
or sheep. Perhaps almost everybody in the 
least natural is guided more than he is ever 
aware of. All the wilderness seems to be full 
of tricks and plans to drive and draw us up 
into God's Light. 

Have been busy planning, and baking 
bread for at least one more good wild excur- 
sion among the high peaks, and surely none, 
however hopefully aiming at fortune or fame, 
ever felt so gloriously happily excited by the 

September j. Left camp at daybreak and 
made direct for Cathedral Peak, intending 
to strike eastward and southward from that 
point among the peaks and ridges at the 
heads of the Tuolumne, Merced, and San 
Joaquin rivers. Down through the pine 
woods I made my way, across the Tuolumne 
River and meadows, and up the heavily 
timbered slope forming the south boundary 

[ 331 ] 

My First Summer 

of the upper Tuolumne basin, along the east 
side of Cathedral Peak, and up to its top- 
most spire, which I reached at noon, having 
loitered by the way to study the fine trees, 
-two-leaved pine, mountain pine, albicau- 
lis pine, silver fir, and the most charming, 
most graceful of all the evergreens, the 
mountain hemlock. High, cool, late-flower- 
ing meadows also detained me, and lakelets 
and avalanche tracks and huge quarries of 
moraine rocks above the forests. 

All the way up from the Big Meadows to 
thebaseof the Cathedral the groundiscovered 
with moraine material, the left lateral mo- 
raine of the great glacier that must have com- 
pletely filled this upper Tuolumne basin. 
Higher there are several small terminal mo- 
raines of residual glaciers shoved forward at 
right angles against the grand simple lateral 
of the main Tuolumne Glacier. A fine place 
to study mountain sculpture and soil making. 
The view from the Cathedral Spires is very 
fine and telling in every direction. Innu- 

[ 332 ] 

In the Sierra 

merable peaks, ridges, domes, meadows, lakes, 
and woods; the forests extending in long 
curving lines and broad fields wherever the 
glaciers have left soil for them to grow on, 
while the sides of the highest mountains 
show a straggling dwarf growth clinging to 


rifts in the rocks apparently independent of 
soil. The dark heath-like growth on the 
Cathedral roof I found to be dwarf snow- 
pressed albicaulis pine, about three or four 
feet high, but very old looking. Many of 

[ 333 ] 

My First Summer 

them are bearing cones, and the noisy Clarke 
crow is eating the seeds, using his long bill 
like a woodpecker in digging them out of 
the cones. A good many flowers are still in 
bloom about the base of the peak, and even 
on the roof among the little pines, especially 
a woody yellow-flowered eriogonum and a 
handsome aster. The body of the Cathe- 
dral is nearly square, and the roof slopes are 
wonderfully regular and symmetrical, the 
ridge trending northeast and southwest. This 
direction has apparently been determined by 
structure joints in the granite. The gable on 
the northeast end is magnificent in size and 
simplicity, and at its base there is a big snow- 
bank protected by the shadow of the build- 
ing. The front is adorned with many pinna- 
cles and a tall spire of curious workmanship. 
Here too the joints in the rock are seen 
to have played an important part in deter- 
mining their forms and size and general 
arrangement. The Cathedral is said to be 
about eleven thousand feet above the sea, 

[ 334 ] 

In the Sierra 

but the height of the building itself above 
the level of the ridge it stands on is about 
fifteen hundred feet. A mile or so to the 
westward there is a handsome lake, and the 
glacier-polished granite about it is shining so 
brightly it is not easy in some places to trace 

i i 


the line between the rock and water, both 
shining alike. Of this lake with its silvery 
basin and bits of meadow and groves I have 
a fine view from the spires ; also of Lake Te- 
naya, Cloud's Rest, and the South Dome of 
Yosemite, Mt. Starr King, Mt. Hoffman, 

[ 335 1 

My First Summer 

the Merced peaks, and the vast multitude of 
snowy fountain peaks extending far north 
and south along the axis of the range. No 
feature, however, of all the noble landscape 
as seen from here seems more wonderful than 
the Cathedral itself, a temple displaying Na- 
ture's best masonry and sermons in stones. 
How often I have gazed at it from the tops 
of hills and ridges, and through openings in 
the forests on my many short excursions, de- 
voutly wondering, admiring, longing ! This 
I may say is the first time I have been at 
church in California, led here at last, every 
door graciously opened for the poor lonely 
worshiper. In our best times everything turns 
into religion, all the world seems a church 
and the mountains altars. And lo, here at last 
in front of the Cathedral is blessed cassiope, 
ringing her thousands of sweet-toned bells, 
the sweetest church music I ever enjoyed. 
Listening, admiring, until late in the after- 
noon I compelled myself to hasten away east- 
ward back of rough, sharp, spiry, splintery 

[ 336 ] 

In the Sierra 

peaks, all of them granite like the Cathe- 
dral, sparkling with crystals, feldspar, 
quartz, hornblende, mica, tourmaline. Had 
a rather difficult walk and creep across an 
immense snow and ice cliff which gradually 
increased in steepness as I advanced until it 
was almost impassable. Slipped on a danger- 
ous place, but managed to stop by digging 
my heels into the thawing surface just on the 
brink of a yawning ice gulf. Camped beside 
a little pool and a group of crinkled dwarf 
pines ; and as I sit by the fire trying to write 
notes the shallow pool seems fathomless with 
the infinite starry heavens in it, while the 
onlooking rocks and trees, tiny shrubs and 
daisies and sedges, brought forward in the 
fire-glow, seem full of thought as if about to 
speak aloud and tell all their wild stories. A 
marvelously impressive meeting in which 
every one has something worth while to tell. 
And beyond the fire-beams out in the solemn 
darkness, how impressive is the music of a 
choir of rills singing their way down from 

[ 337 ] 

My First Summer 

the snow to the river ! And when we call 
to mind that thousands of these rejoicing rills 
are assembled in each one of the main 
streams, we wonder the less that our Sierra 
rivers are songful all the way to the sea. 

About sundown saw a flock of dun gray- 
ish sparrows going to roost in crevices of 
a crag above the big snow-field. Charm- 
ing little mountaineers ! Found a species 
of sedge in flower within eight or ten feet 
of a snow-bank. Judging by the looks of 
the ground, it can hardly have been out in 
the sunshine much longer than a week, and 
it is likely to be buried again in fresh snow 
in a month or so, thus making a winter 
about ten months long, while spring, sum- 
mer, and autumn are crowded and hurried 
into two months. How delightful it is to 
be alone here ! How wild everything is, - 
wild as the sky and as pure ! Never shall I 
forget this big, divine day, - - the Cathe- 
dral and its thousands of cassiope bells, and 
the landscapes around them, and this camp 

[ 338 ] 

In the Sierra 

in the gray crags above the woods, with its 
stars and streams and snow. 

September 8.- - Day of climbing, scram- 
bling, sliding on the peaks around the high- 
est sources of the Tuolumne and Merced. 
Climbed three of the most commanding of 
the mountains, whose names I don't know; 
crossed streams and huge beds of ice and 
snow more than I could keep count of. 
Neither could I keep count of the lakes 
scattered on tablelands and in the cirques 
of the peaks, and in chains in the canons, 
linked together by the streams, - - a tre- 
mendously wild gray wilderness of hacked, 
shattered crags, ridges, and peaks, a few 
clouds drifting over and through the midst 
of them as if looking for work. In gen- 
eral views all the immense round landscape 
seems raw and lifeless as a quarry, yet the 
most charming flowers were found rejoicing 
in countless nooks and garden-like patches 
everywhere. I must have done three or four 
days' climbing work in this one. Limbs 

[ 339 ] 

My First Summer 

perfectly tireless until near sundown, when 
I descended into the main upper Tuolumne 

Mt. Ritter 




valley at the foot of Mt. Lyell, the camp 
still eight or ten miles distant. Going up 

[ 340 ] 

In the Sierra 

through the pine woods past the Soda 
Springs Dome in the dark, where there is 
much fallen timber, and when all the ex- 
citement of seeing things was wanting, I 
was tired. Arrived at the main camp at 
nine o'clock, and soon was sleeping sound 
as death. 

September 9. Weariness rested away and 
I feel eager and ready for another excursion 
a month or two long in the same wonderful 
wilderness. Now, however, I must turn 
toward the lowlands, praying and hoping 
Heaven will shove me back again. 

The most telling thing learned in these 
mountain excursions is the influence of cleav- 
age joints on the features sculptured from the 
general mass of the range. Evidently the de- 
nudation has been enormous, while the in- 
evitable outcome is subtle balanced beauty. 
Comprehended in general views, the features 
of the wildest landscape seem to be as har- 
moniously related as the features of a human 
face. Indeed, they look human and radiate 


My First Summer 

spiritual beauty, divine thought, however 
covered and concealed by rock and snow. 

Mr. Delaney has hardly had time to ask 
me how I enjoyed my trip, though he has 
facilitated and encouraged my plans all sum- 
mer, and declares I '11 be famous some day, 
a kind guess that seems strange and incredi- 
ble to a wandering wilderness-lover with 
never a thought or dream of fame while 
humbly trying to trace and learn and enjoy 
Nature's lessons. 

The camp stuff is now packed on the 
horses, and the flock is headed for the home 
ranch. Away we go, down through the pines, 
leaving the lovely lawn where we have 
camped so long. I wonder if I '11 ever see it 
again. The sod is so tough and close it is 
scarcely at all injured by the sheep. Fortu- 
nately they are not fond of silky glacier 
meadow grass. The day is perfectly clear, 
not a cloud or the faintest hint of a cloud is 
visible, and there is no wind. I wonder if in 
all the world, at a height of nine thousand 

[ 342 ] 

In the Sierra 

feet, weather so steadily, faithfully calm and 
bright and hospitable may anywhere else be 
found. We are going away fearing destruc- 
tive storms, though it is difficult to conceive 
weather changes so great. 

Though the water is now low in the river, 
the usual difficulty occurred in getting the 
flock across it. Every sheep seemed to be in- 
vincibly determined to die any sort of dry 
death rather than wet its feet. Carlo has 
learned the sheep business as perfectly as the 
best shepherd, and it is interesting to watch 
his intelligent efforts to push or frighten the 
silly creatures into the water. They had to 
be fairly crowded and shoved over the bank ; 
and when at last one crossed because it could 
not push its way back, the whole flock sud- 
denly plunged in headlong together, as if 
the river was the only desirable part of the 
world. Aside from mere money profit one 
would rather herd wolves than sheep. As soon 
as they clambered up the opposite bank, they 
began baaing and feeding as if nothing un- 

[ 343 ] 

My First Summer 

usual had happened. We crossed the mead- 
ows and drove slowly up the south rim of the 
valley through the same woods I had passed 
on my way to Cathedral Peak, and camped 
for the night by the side of a small pond on 
top of the big lateral moraine. 

September 10. In the morning at day- 
break not one of the two thousand sheep was 
in sight. Examining the tracks, we discov- 
ered that they had been scattered, perhaps 
by a bear. In a few hours all were found 
and gathered into one flock again. Had fine 
view of a deer. How graceful and perfect 
in every way it seemed as compared with the 
silly, dusty, tousled sheep! From the high 
ground hereabouts had another grand view 
to the northward, a heaving, swelling sea 
of domes and round-backed ridges fringed 
with pines, and bounded by innumerable 
sharp-pointed peaks, gray and barren-look- 
ing, though so full of beautiful life. Another 
day of the calm, cloudless kind, purple in the 
morning and evening. The evening glow has 

[ 344 ] 

In the Sierra 

been very marked for the last two or three 
weeks. Perhaps the "zodiacal light.' 3 

September 11. Cloudless. Slight frost. 
Calm. Fairly started down hill, and now 
are camped at the west end meadows of 
Lake Tenaya, a charming place. Lake 
smooth as glass, mirroring its miles of gla- 
cier-polished pavements and bold mountain 
walls. Find aster still in flower. Here is 
about the upper limit of the dwarf form 
of the goldcup oak,- -eight thousand feet 
above sea-level, reaching about two thou- 
sand feet higher than the California black 
oak (Quercus Calif ornicus^. Lovely evening, 
the lake reflections after dark marvelously 

September 12.- -Cloudless day, all pure 
sun-gold. Among the magnificent silver firs 
once more, within two miles of the brink 
of Yosemite, at the famous Portuguese bear 
camp. Chaparral of goldcup oak, manza- 
nita, and ceanothus abundant hereabouts, 
wanting about the Tuolumne meadows, 

[ 345 ] 

My First Summer 

though the elevation is but little higher 
there. The two-leaved pine, though far 
more abundant about the Tuolumne meadow 
region, reaches its greatest size on stream- 
sides hereabouts and around meadows that 
are rather boggy. All the best dry ground 
is taken by the magnificent silver fir, which 
here reaches its greatest size and forms a 
well-defined belt. A glorious tree. Have 
fine bed of its boughs to-night. 

September 13. Camp this evening at 
Yoscmite Creek, close to the stream, on a 
little sand flat near our old camp-ground. 
The vegetation is already brown and yel- 
low and dry ; the creek almost dry also. 
The slender form of the two-leaved pine 
on its banks is, I think, the handsomest 
I have anywhere seen. It might easily pass 
at first sight for a distinct species, though 
surely only a variety (Murray ana}, due to 
crowded and rapid growth on good soil. 
The yellow pine is as variable, or perhaps 
more so. The form here and a thousand 

[ 346 ] 

In the Sierra 

feet higher, on crumbling rocks, is broad 
branching, with closely furrowed, reddish 
bark, large cones, and long leaves. It is one 
of the hardiest of pines, and has wonderful 
vitality. The tassels of long, stout needles 
shining silvery in the sun, when the wind 
is blowing them all in the same direction, 
is one of the most splendid spectacles these 
glorious Sierra forests have to show. This 
variety of Pinus ponderosa is regarded as a 
distinct species, Pinus Jeffreyi, by some bot- 
anists. The basin of this famous Yosemite 
stream is extremely rocky, - - seems fairly 
to be paved with domes like a street with 
big cobblestones. I wonder if I shall ever 
be allowed to explore it. It draws me so 
strongly, I would make any sacrifice to 
try to read its lessons. I thank God for 
this glimpse of it. The charms of these 
mountains are beyond all common reason, 
unexplainable and mysterious as life itself. 
September 14. Nearly all day in mag- 
nificent fir forest, the top branches laden 

[ 347] 

My First Summer 

with superb erect gray cones shining with 
beads of pure balsam. The squirrels are cut- 
ting them off at a great rate. Bump, bump, 
I hear them falling, soon to be gathered 
and stored for winter bread. Those that 
chance to be left by the industrious har- 
vesters drop the scales and bracts when 
fully ripe, and it is fine to see the purple- 
winged seeds flying in swirling, merry-look- 
ing flocks seeking their fortunes. The bole 
and dead limbs of nearly every tree in the 
main forest-belt are ornamented by con- 
spicuous tufts and strips of a yellow lichen. 

Camped for the night at Cascade Creek, 
near the Mono Trail crossing. Manzanita 
berries now ripe. Cloudiness to-day about 
.10. The sunset very rich, flaming purple 
and crimson showing gloriously through 
the aisles of the woods. 

September 15. - The weather pure gold, 
cloudiness about .05, white cirrus flecks and 
pencilings around the horizon. Move two 
or three miles and camp at Tamarack Flat. 

[ 348 ] 

In the Sierra 

Wandering in the woods here back of the 
pines which bound the meadows, I found 
very noble specimens of the magnificent 
silver fir, the tallest about two hundred and 
forty feet high and five feet in diameter 
four feet from the ground. 

September 16. Crawled slowly four or 
five miles to-day through the glorious for- 
est to Crane Flat, where we are camped for 
the night. The forests we so admired in 
summer seem still more beautiful and sub- 
lime in this mellow autumn light. Lovely 
starry night, the tall, spiring tree-tops re- 
lieved in jet black against the sky. I linger 
by the fire, loath to go to bed. 

September 17. Left camp early. Ran 
over the Tuolumne divide and down a few 
miles to a grove of sequoias that I had 
heard of, directed by the Don. They oc- 
cupy an area of perhaps less than a hun- 
dred acres. Some of the trees are noble, 
colossal old giants, surrounded by magnifi- 
cent sugar pines and Douglas spruces. The 

[ 349 ] 

My First Summer 

perfect specimens not burned or broken are 
singularly regular and symmetrical, though 
not at all conventional, showing infinite 
variety in general unity and harmony ; the 
noble shafts with rich purplish brown fluted 
bark, free of limbs for one hundred and 
fifty feet or so, ornamented here and there 
with leafy rosettes ; main branches of the 
oldest trees very large, crooked and rugged, 
zigzagging stiffly outward seemingly lawless, 
yet unexpectedly stopping just at the right 
distance from the trunk and dissolving in 
dense bossy masses of branchlets, thus making 
a regular though greatly varied outline, - 
a cylinder of leafy, outbulging spray masses, 
terminating in a noble dome, that may be 
recognized while yet far off upheaved against 
the sky above the dark bed of pines and firs 
and spruces, the king of all conifers, not 
only in size but in sublime majesty of be- 
havior and port. I found a black, charred 
stump about thirty feet in diameter and 
eighty or ninety feet high, a venerable, 

[ 350 ] 

In Tuolumne Sequoia Grove 

In the Sierra 

impressive old monument of a tree that in 
its prime may have been the monarch of 
the grove ; seedlings and saplings growing 
up here and there, thrifty and hopeful, giving 
no hint of the dying out of the species. Not 
any unfavorable change of climate, but only 
fire threatens the existence of these noblest 
of God's trees. Sorry I was not able to get a 
count of the old monument's annual rings. 

Camp this evening at Hazel Green, on 
the broad back of the dividing ridge near 
our old camp-ground when we were on 
the way up the mountains in the spring. 
This ridge has the finest sugar pine groves 
and finest manzanita and ceanothus thick- 
ets I have yet found on all this wonderful 
summer journey. 

September i 8. - - Made a long descent on 
the south side of the divide to Brown's 
Flat, the grand forests now left above us, 
though the sugar pine still flourishes fairly 
well, and with the yellow pine, libocedrus, 
and Douglas spruce, makes forests that would 

My First Summer 

be considered most wonderful in any other 
part of the world. 

The Indians here, with great concern, 
pointed to an old garden patch on the flat 
and told us to keep away from it. Perhaps 
some of their tribe are buried here. 

September 1 9. Camped this evening at 
Smith's Mill, on the first broad mountain 
bench or plateau reached in ascending the 
range, where pines grow large enough for 
good lumber. Here wheat, apples, peaches, 
and grapes grow, and we were treated to 
wine and apples. The wine I did n't like, 
but Mr. Delaney and the Indian driver and 
the shepherd seemed to think the stuff di- 
vine. Compared to sparkling Sierra water 
fresh from the heavens, it seemed a dull, 
muddy, stupid drink. But the apples, best 
of fruits, how delicious they were ! fit 
for gods or men. 

On the way down from Brown's Flat we 
stopped at Bower Cave, and I spent an hour 
in it, - - one of the most novel and interest- 

[ 352 ] 

In the Sierra 

ing of all Nature's underground mansions. 
Plenty of sunlight pours into it through the 
leaves of the four maple trees growing in 
its mouth, illuminating its clear, calm pool 
and marble chambers, a charming place, 
ravishingly beautiful, but the accessible parts 
of the walls sadly disfigured with names of 

September 20.- The weather still golden 
and calm, but hot. We are now in the foot- 
hills, and all the conifers are left behind 
except the gray Sabine pine. Camped at 
the Dutch Boy's Ranch, where there are 
extensive barley fields now showing nothing 
save dusty stubble. 

September 21. - - A terribly hot, dusty, 
sun-burned day, and as nothing was to be 
gained by loitering where the flock could 
find nothing to eat save thorny twigs and 
chaparral, we made a long drive, and be- 
fore sundown reached the home ranch on 
the yellow San Joaquin plain. 

September 22.- The sheep were let out 

[ 353 ] 

My First Summer 

of the corral one by one, this morning, and 
counted, and strange to say, after all their 
long, adventurous wanderings in bewilder- 
ing rocks and brush and streams, scattered 
by bears, poisoned by azalea, kalmia, alkali, 
all are accounted for. Of the two thousand 
and fifty that left the corral in the spring 
lean and weak, two thousand and twenty- 
five have returned fat and strong. The losses 
are : ten killed by bears, one by a rattle- 
snake, one that had to be killed after it had 
broken its leg on a boulder slope, and one 
that ran away in blind terror on being acci- 
dentally separated from the flock, thir- 
teen all told. Of the other twelve doomed 
never to return, three were sold to ranch- 
men and nine were made camp mutton. 

Here ends my forever memorable first 
High Sierra excursion. I have crossed the 
Range of Light, surely the brightest and 
best of all the Lord has built ; and rejoicing 
in its glory, I gladly, gratefully, hopefully 
pray I may see it again. 


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